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University of California. 

CIRC U L A 7V. ' 
Return in twa week! ; or a week before the ei '-m, 












D. Faoshaw, Printer. 



Soame Jenyns, on the Internal Evidence of the Chris- 
tian Religion, 6 

Leslie's Method with the Deists, ... 73 

Lord Lyttleton on the Conversion of St. Paul, . . 103 
Bishop Watson's Reply to Gibbon; or Apology for 

Christianity, 181 

Bishop Watson's Reply to Paine ; or Apology for the 

Bible, . . 283 

Hume's Denial of Miracles, 439 

Starkie's Examination of Hume's Argument, . . 443 

The Resurrection order of events, .... 450 





"Almost them persuades t me to be a Christian." Acts, 26 : 28. 

Of the following treatise, Dr. PALEY says, in his incom- 
parable work on the Evidences of Christianity, " I should 
willingly, if the limits and nature of my work admitted of 
it, transcribe into this chapter the whole of what nas been 
said upon the morality of the Gospel by the author of * A 
View of the Internal Evidence of Christianity ;' because it 
perfectly agrees with my own opinion, and because it is im- 
possible to say the same things so well." 

The Rev. Dr. Alexander says he " has often heard it as- 
serted, and never contradicted, that the late PATRICK HENRY, 
the celebrated orator of Virginia and of the American Revo- 
lution, had been in early life skeptical, but was fully oatis- 
fied of the truth of the Christian religion by the perusal of 
this little treatise of SOAME JENYN'S. 

In the present edition a few passages, not essential to the 
argument, have been omitted. 


MOST of the writers who have undertaken to prove 
the Divine origin of the Christian religion, have had 
recourse to arguments drawn from these three heads : 
The prophecies still extant in the Old Testament, 
the miracles recorded in the New, of the internal 
evidence arising from that excellence, and those clear 
marks of supernatural interposition which are so con- 
spicuous in the religion itself. The two former have 
been sufficiently explained and enforced by the ablest 
pens ; but the last, which seems to carry with it the 
greatest degree of conviction, has never, I think, been 
considered with that attention which it deserves. 

I mean not here to depreciate the proofs arising 
from either prophecies, or miracles ; they both have, 
or ought to have their proper weight. Prophecies 
are permanent miracles, whose authority is sufficiently 
confirmed by their completion, and are therefore 
solid proofs of their supernatural origin of a religion 
whose truth they were intended to testify. Such are 
those to be found in various parts of the Scriptures 
relative to the coming of the Messiah, the destruction 
of Jerusalem, and the unexampled state in which the 
Jews have ever since continued: all so circumstan- 


tially descriptive of the events, that they seem rather 
histories of past, than predictions of future transac- 
tions ; and whoever will seriously consider the im- 
mense distance of time between some of them and 
the events which they foretell, the uninterrupted chain 
by which they are connected for many thousand years, 
how exactly they correspond with those events, and 
how totally unapplicable they are to all others in the 
history of mankind : I say, whoever considers these 
circumstances, he will scarcely be pursuaded to be- 
lieve that they can be the productions of preceding 
artifice, or posterior application ; or be able to enter- 
tain the least doubt of their being derived from super- 
natural inspiration. The miracles recorded in the 
New Testament to have been performed by Christ 
and his apostles, were certainly convincing proofs of 
their Divine commission to those who saw them; and 
as they were seen by such numbers, and are as well 
attested as other historical facts ; and, above all, as 
they were wrought on so great and so wonderful an 
occasion, they must still be admitted as incontrovert- 
ible evidence. 

To prove the truth of the Christian religion, I 
prefer, however, to begin by showing the internal 
marks of Divinity which are stamped upon it; be- 
cause on this the credibility of the prophecies and 
miracles in a great measure depends : for if we have 
once reason to be convinced that this religion is de- 
rived from a supernatural origin, prophecies and mi- 
racles will become so far from being incredible, that it 
will be highly probable that a supernatural revelation 
should be foretold and enforced by supernatural 


What pure Christianity is, divested of all its or- 
naments, appendages, and corruption, I pretend not 
now to say ; but what it is not, I will venture to affirm, 
which is, that it is not the offspring of fraud or fic- 
tion. Such, on a superficial view, I know it may 
appear to a man of good sense, whose sense has been 
altogether employed on other subjects ; but if any one 
will give himself the trouble to examine it with ac- 
curacy and candor, he will plainly see, that however 
fraud and fiction may have grown up with it, yet it 
never could have been grafted on the same stock, 
nor planted by the same hand. 

To ascertain the true system and genuine doctrines 
of this religion, after the controversies of above seven- 
teen centuries, and to remove all the rubbish which arti 
fice and ignorance have been heaping upon it during 
all that time, would indeed be an ardous task, which 
I shall by no means undertake; but to show that it 
cannot possibly be derived from human wisdom, or 
human imposture, is a work, I think, attended with 
no great difficulty, and requiring no extraordinary 
abilities ; and therefore I shall attempt that, and that 
alone, by stating and then explaining the following 
plain and undeniable propositions. 

FIRST, that there is now extant a book entitled the 
New Testament. 

SECONDLY, that from this book may be extracted a 
system of religion entirely new, both with regard to 
the object and the doctrines, not only infinitely supe- 
rior to, but unlike, every thing- which had ever before 
entered into the mind of man. 

THIRDLY, that from this book may likewise be col- 
lected a system of Ethics, in which every moral 


precept, founded on reason, is carried to a higher de- 
gree of purity and perfection than in any other- of 
the wisest philosophers of preceding ages ; every 
moral precept founded on false principles is totally 
omitted, and many new precepts added, peculiarly 
corresponding with the new object of this religion. 

LASTLY, that such a system of religion and mo- 
rality could not possibly hare been the work of any 
'man, or set of men ; much less of those obscure, ig- 
norant, and illiterate persons, who actually did 
discover, and publish it to the world ; and that, there- 
fore, it must undoubtedly have been effected by the 
interposition of Divine power ; that is, that it must 
derive its origin from God. 


Very little need be said to establish my first pro- 
position, which is singly this: That there is now 
extant a book entitled the New Testament ; that is. 
there is a collection of writings, distinguished by that 
denomination, containing four historical accounts of 
the birth, life, actions, discourses, and death of an 
extraordinary person named Jesus Christ, who was 
born in the reign of Augustus Csesar, preached a 
new religion throughout the country of Judea, and 
was put to a cruel and ignominious death in the reign 
of Tiberius. Also one other historical account of the 
travels, transactions, and orations of some plain and 
illiterate men, known by the title of his apostles, 
whom he commissioned to propagate his religion after 
his death ; which he foretold them he must suffer in 
confirmation of its truth. To these are added several 


epistolary writings, addressed by these persons to 
their fellow-laborers in this work, or to the several 
churches or societies of Christians which they had 
established in the several cities through which they 
had passed. 

It would not be difficult to prove that these books 
were written soon after those extraordinary events, 
which are the subjects of them, as we find them quot- 
ed and referred to by an uninterrupted succession of 
writers from those to the present time : nor would it 
be less easy to show that the truth of all those events, 
miracles only excepted, can no more be reasonably 
questioned than the truth of any other facts recorded in 
any history whatever ; and there can be no more rea- 
son to doubt that there existed such a person as Jesus 
Christ, speaking, acting, and suffering in such a man- 
ner as is there described, than that there were such 
men as Tiberius, Herod, or Pontius Pilate, his con- 
temporaries ; or to suspect that Peter. Paul, and James 
were not the authors of those epistles to which their 
names are affixed, than that Cicero and Pliny did not 
write those which are ascribed to them. It might also 
be made to appear, that these books, having been writ- 
ten by various persons at different times, and in dis- 
tant places, could not possibly have been the work of 
a single impostor, nor of a fraudulent combination, 
being all stamped with the same marks of a uniform 
originality in their very frame and composition. 

But all these circumstances I shall pass over unob- 
served, as they do not fall in with the course of my ar- 
gument, nor are necessary for the support of it. Whe- 
ther these books were written by the authors whose 
names are prefixed to them j whether they have been 


enlarged, diminished, or any way corrupted by the ar- 
tifice or ignorance of translators or transcribers ; whe- 
ther in the historical parts the writers were instructed 
by a perpetual, a partial, or by any inspiration at all ; 
whether in the religious and moral parts they received 
their doctrines from a divine influence, or from the in- 
structions and conversation of their Master ; whether 
in their facts or sentiments there is always the most 
exact agreementj or whether in both they sometimes 
differ from each other ; whether they are in any case 
mistaken, or always infallible, or ever pretended to be 
so, I shall not here dispute : let the deist avail himself 
of all these doubts and difficulties, and decide them in 
conformity to his own opinions. I shall not now con- 
tend, because they affect not my argument ; all that I 
assert is a plain fact, which cannot be denied, that 
such writings do now exist. 


My second proposition is not quite so simple, but, I 
think, not less undeniable than the former, and is this * 
That from this book may be extracted a system of 
religion entirely new, both with regard to the object 
and the doctrines ; not only infinitely superior to, but 
totally unlike every thing which had ever before en- 
tered into themind of man. I say extracted, because 
all the doctrines of this religion having been delivered 
at various times, and on various occasions, and here 
only historically recorded, no regular system of theo- 
logy is here to be found ; and better perhaps, it had 
been, if less labor had been employed by the learned 
to bend and twist these divine materials into the po- 


lished forms of human systems. Why their great 
author chose not to leave any such behind him, we" 
know not, but it might possibly be because he knew 
that the imperfection of man was incapable of receiv* 
ing such a system, and that we are more properly and 
more safely conducted by the distant and scattered 
rays, than by the too powerful sunshine of divine illu- 
mination. " If I have told you earthly things," says 
fie, " and ye believe not, how shall ye believe if I tell 
you of heavenly things ?" John, 3 : 12. That is, if my 
instructions concerning your behavior in the present, 
as relative to a future life, are so difficult to be under- 
stood that you can scarcely believe me, how shall you 
believe me if I endeavor to explain to you the nature 
of celestial beings, the designs of Providence, and the 
mysteries of his dispensation ? subjects which you 
have neither ideas to comprehend, nor language to 

First, then, the object of this religion is entirely 
new, and is this ; to prepare us by a state of probation 
tor the kingdom of heaven. This is every where pro- 
fessed by Christ and his apostles to be the chief end 
of the Christian's life ; the crown for which he is to 
contend, the goal to which he is to run, the harvest 
which is to repay all his labors. Yet, previous to their 
preaching, no such prize was ever hung out to man- 
kind, nor any means prescribed for the attainment of it. 

It is indeed true, that some of the philosophers of 
antiquity entertained notions of a future state, but 
mixed with much doubt and uncertainty. Their legis- 
lators also endeavored to infuse into the minds of the 
people a belief of rewards and punishments after death ; 
but by this they only intended to give a sanction to 


their laws, and to enforce the practice of virtue for the 
benefit of mankind in the present life. This alone 
seems to have been their end, and a meritorious end it 
was ; but Christianity not only operates more effec- 
tually to this end, but has a nobler design in view, 
which is by a proper education here to render us fit 
members of a celestial society hereafter. 

In all former religions, the good of the present life 
was the first object ; in the Christian, it is but the se- 
cond ; in those, men were incited to promote that good 
by the hopes of a future rewaru ; in this, the practice 
of virtue is enjoined in order to qualify them for that 
reward. There is great difference, I apprehend, in these 
two plans : that is, in adhering to virtue from its pre- 
sent utility in expectation of future happiness, and 
living in such a manner as to qualify us for the accep- 
tance and enjoyment of that happiness ; and the con- 
duct and dispositions of those who act on these differ- 
ent principles must be no less different. On the first, 
the constant practice of justice, temperance, and so- 
briety, will be sufficient ; but on the latter, we must 
add to these an habitual piety, faith, resignation, and 
contempt of the world. The first may make us very 
good citizens, but will never produce a tolerable Chris- 
tian. Hence it is that Christianity insists more strong- 
ly than any preceding institution, religious or moral, 
on purity of heart , and a benevolent disposition, be- 
cause these are absolutely necessary to its great end ; 
but in those whose recommendations of virtue regard 
the present life only, and whose promised rewards in 
another were low and sensual, no preparatory qualifi- 
cations were requisite to enable men to practice the 
one, or to enjoy the other; and therefore, we see this 


object is peculiar to this religion ; and with it, was 
entirely new. 

But although this object, and the principle on which 
it is founded, were new, and perhaps undiscoverable 
by reason, yet when discovered, they are so consonant 
to it that we cannot but readily assent to them. For 
the truth of this princible, that the present life is a 
state of probation and education to prepare us for 
another, is confirmed by every thing which we see 
around ;is : it is the only key which can open to us the 
designs of Providence in the economy of human affairs, 
the only clu? which can guide us through that path- 
less wilderness, and the only plan on which this world 
could possibly have been formed, or on which the his- 
tory of it can be comprehended or explained. It could 
never have been formed on a plan of happiness, be- 
cause it is every where overspread with innumerable 
miseries ; nor of misery, because it is interspersed with 
many enjoyments. It could not have been constituted 
for a scene of wisdom and virtue, because the history 
of mankind is little more than a detail of their follies 
and wickedness ; nor of vice, because that is no plan 
at all, being destructive of all existence, and conse- 
quently of its own. But on this system, all that we 
here meet with may be easily accounted for; for this 
mixture of happiness and misery, of virtue and vine, 
necessarily results from a state of probation and edu- 
cation ; as probation implies trials, sufferings, and a 
capacity of offending, and education a propriety of 
chastisement for those offences. 

In the next place, the doctrines of this religion are 
equally new with the object; and contain ideas of 
God, and of man, of the present, and of a future life 


and of the relations which all these bear to each other, 
totally unheard of, and quite dissimilar from any which 
had ever been thought on previous to its publication. 
No other ever drew so just a portrait of the worthless- 
ness of this world, and all its pursuits, nor exhibited 
such distinct, lively, and exquisite pictures of the 
joys of another ; of the resurrection of the dead, the 
last judgment, and the triumphs of the righteous in 
that tremendous day, " when this corruptible shall put 
on incorruption, and this mortal shall put on immor- 
tality." 1 Cor. 15 : 53. No other has ever represented 
the Supreme Being in the character of three persons 
united in one God. No other has attempted to recon- 
cile those seeming contradictory, but both true propo- 
sitions, the contingency of future events, and the fore- 
knowledge of God, or the freewill of the creature with 
the overruling grace of the Creator. No other has so 
fully declared the necessity of wickedness and pun- 
ishment, yet so effectually instructed individuals to 
resist the one, and to escape the other ; no other has 
ever pretended to give any account of the depravity 
of man, or to point out any remedy for it ; no other 
has ventured to declare the unpardonable nature of 
sin without the influence of a mediatorial interposi- 
tion, and a vicarious atonement from the sufferings of 
a Superior Being.* Whether these wonderful doc- 

* That Christ suffered and died, as an atonement for the sins 
of mankind, is a doctrine so constantly and so stongly enforced 
through every part of the New Testament, that whoever will 
seriously peruse those writings, and deny that it is there, may, 
with as much reason and truth, after reading the works of 
Thucydides and Livy, assert, thatiri them no mention is made 
of any facts relative to the histories of Greece and Rome. 


trines are worthy of our Belief, must depend on the 
opinion which we entertain of the authority of those 
who published them to the world ; but certain it is, 
that they are all so far removed from every tract of the 
human imagination, that it seems equally impossible 
that they should ever have been derived from the 
knowledge, or the artifice of man. 

Some indeed there are, who, by perverting the es- 
tablished signification of words, (which they call ex- 
plaining,) have ventured to expunge all these doc- 
trines out of the Scriptures, for no other reason than 
that they are not able to comprehend them ; and argue 
thas: The Scriptures are the word of God; in his 
word no propositions contradictory to reason can have 
a place ; these propositions are contradictory to rea- 
sion, and therefore they are not there. But if these 
bold asserters would claim any regard, they should 
reverse their argument and say: These doctrines 
make a part, and a material part of the Scriptures ; 
they are contradictory to reason ; no propositions con- 
trary to reason can be a part of the word of God ; and 
therefore, neither the Scriptures, nor the pretended 
revelation contained in them, can be derived from 
him. This would be an argument worthy of rational 
and candid deists, and demand a respectful attention ; 
but when men pretend to disapprove facts by reason- 
ing, they have no right to expect an answer. 

And here I cannot omit observing, that the personal 
character of the author of this religion is no less 
new and extraordinary than the religion itself: " who 
spake as never man spake," (John 7: 49,) and lived 
as never man lived. In proof of this, I do not mean 
to allege that he was born of a virgin, that he fasted 


forty days, that he performed a variety of miracles, 
and that after being buried three days, he rose from 
the dead ; because these accounts will have but little 
effect on the minds of unbelievers, who, if they be- 
lieve not the religion, will give no credit to the rela- 
tion of these facts ; but I will prove it from facts which 
cannot be disputed. For instance, he is the cnly 
founder of a religion, in the history of mankind, which 
is totally unconnected with all human policy and 
government, and therefore totally unconductive to 
any worldly purpose whatever. All others, Maho- 
met, Numa, and even Moses himself, blended their 
religious institutions with their civil, and by them ob- 
tained dominion over their respective people ; but 
Christ neither aimed at, nor would accept of any such 
power: he rejected every object which all other men 
pursue, and made choice of all those which others 
fly from, and are afraid of: he refused power, riches, 
honors, and pleasures, and courted poverty, ignominy, 
tortures, and death. Many have been the enthusiasts 
and imposters who have endeavored to impose on 
the world pretended revelation ; and some of them, 
from pride, obstinacy, or principle, have gone so far 
as to lay down their lives rather than retract ; but I 
defy history to show one who ever made his own suf- 
ferings and death a necessary part of his original 
plan, and essential to his mission. This Christ actu- 
ally did ; he foresaw, foretold, declared their neces- 
sity, and voluntarily endured them. If we seriously 
contemplate the Divine lessons, the perfect precepts, 
the beautiful discourses, and the consistent .conduct 
of this wonderful person, we cannot possibly imagine 
that he could have been either an idiot or a madman ; 


and yet, if he was not what he pretended to be, he 
can be considered in no other light ; and even under 
this character he would deserve some attention, be- 
cause of so sublime and rational an insanity there is 
no other instance in the history of mankind. 

If any one can doubt of the superior excellence of 
this religion above all which preceded it, let him but 
peruse with attention those unparalleled writings in 
which it is transmitted to the present times, and com- 
pare them with the most celebrated productions of the 
pagan world ; and if he is not sensible of their superior 
beauty, simplicity, and originality, I will venture to 
pronounce, that he is as deficient in taste as in faith, 
and that he is as bad a critic as a Christian. In what 
school of ancient philosophy can he find a lesson of 
morality so perfect as Christ's sermon on the mount? 
From which of them can he collect an address to the 
Deity so concise, and yet so comprehensive, so ex- 
pressive of all that we want, and all that we could de- 
precate, as that short prayer which he formed for, and 
recommended to his disciples? From the works of 
what sage of antiquity can he produce so pathetic a 
recommendation of benevolence to the distressed, and 
enforced by such assurances of a reward, as in those 
words of Christ, " Come, ye blessed of my Father ! 
inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the founda- 
tion of the world : for I was a hungered, and ye gave 
me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; I was 
a stranger, and ye took me in ; I was naked, and ye 
clothed me ; I was sick, and ye visited me ; I was in 
prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous 
answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee a hun- 
gered, and fed thee, r thirsty and gave thee drink? 


when saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in, or 
naked and clothed thee ? or when saw we thee sick 
and in prison, and came unto thee ? Then shall he 
answer and say unto them, Verily, I say unto you, in- 
asmuch as you have done it to the least of these my 
brethren, ye have done it unto me." Matt. 25 : 34. 
Where is there so just, and so elegant a reproof of 
eagerness and anxiety in worldly pursuits, closed with 
so forcible an exhortation to confidence in the good- 
ness of our Creator, as in these words : " Behold the 
fowls of the air ; for they sow not, neither do they 
reap, nor gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father 
feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? 
Consider the lillies of the field, how they grow ; they 
toil not, neither do they spin ; and yet I say unto you, 
that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed 
like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass 
of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into 
the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye 
of little faith ? Matt. 6 : 26-28. By which of their 
most celebrated poets are the joys reserved for the 
righteous in a future state so sublimely described, as 
by this short declaration, that they are superior to all 
description : " Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nei- 
ther have entered into the heart of man, the things 
which God hath prepared for them that love him." 1 
Cor. 2 : 9. Where, amidst the dark clouds of pagan 
philosophy, can he show us such a clear prospect of a 
future state, the immortality of the soul, the resurrec- 
tion of the dead, and the general judgment, as in St. 
Paul's first epistle to the Corinthians ? Or from whence 
can K. produce such cogent exhortations to the prac- 
\'ce of OT^ry virtue, such ardent incitements to piety 


and devotion, and such assistances to attain them, as 
those which are to be met with throughout every page 
of these inimitable writings ? To quote all the pas- 
sages in them, relative to these subjects, would be al- 
most to transcribe the whole. It is sufficient to observe, 
that they are every where stamped with such appa- 
rent marks of supernatural assistance, as render them 
indisputably superior to, and totally unlike all human 
compositions whatever ; and this superiority and dis- 
similarity is still more strongly marked by one remark- 
able circumstance peculiar to themselves, which is, 
that whilst the moral parts, being of the most general 
use, are intelligible to the meanest capacities, the 
learned and inquisitive, throughout all ages, perpe- 
tually find in them inexhaustible discoveries concern- 
ing the nature, attributes, and dispensations of provi- 

To say the truth, before the appearance of Chris- 
tianity there existed nothing like religion on the face 
of the earth, the Jewish only excepted : all other na- 
tions were immersed in the grossest idolatry, which 
had little or no connection with morality, except to 
corrupt it by the infamous examples of their own ima- 
ginary deities. They all worshiped a multiplicity of 
gods and demons, whose favor they courted by impi- 
ous, obscene, and ridiculous ceremonies, and whose 
anger they endeavored to appease by the most abomi- 
nable cruelties. In the politest ages of the politest na- 
tions in the world, at a time when Greece and Rome 
had carried the arts of oratory, poetry, history, archi- 
tecture, and sculpture to the highest perfection, and 
made no inconsiderable advances in those of mathe- 
matics, natural, and even moral philosophy in reli- 


gious knowledge they had made none at all a strong 
presumption, that the noblest efforts of the mind of 
man, unassisted by revelation, were unequal to the 
task. Some few, indeed, of their philosophers were 
wise enough to reject these general absurdities, and 
dared to attempt a loftier flight. Plato introduced many 
sublime ideas of nature, and its first cause, and of the 
immortality of the soul, which being above his own 
and all human discovery, he probably acquired from 
the books of Moses, or the conversation of some Jewish 
rabbies, which he might have met with in Egypt, 
where he resided, and studied for several years. From 
him Aristotle, and from both, Cicero and some few 
others, drew most amazing stores of philosophical 
science, and carried their researches into divine truths 
as far as human genius alone could penetrate. But 
these were bright constellations, which appeared sin- 
gly in several centuries, and even these, with all this 
knowledge, were very deficient in true theology. From 
the visible works of the creation they traced the being 
and principal attributes of the Creator ; but the rela- 
tion which his being and attributes bear to man they 
little understood ; of piety and devotion they had scarce 
any sense, nor could they form any mode of worship 
worthy of the purity and perfection of the divine na- 
ture. They occasionally flung out many elegant en- 
comiums on the native beauty and excellence of virtue ; 
but they founded it not on the commands of God, nor 
connected it with a holy life, nor hung out the hap- 
piness of heaven as its reward, or its object. They 
sometimes talked of virtue carrying men to heaven, 
and placing them amongst the gods ; but by this virtue 
they meant only the invention of arts, or feats of arms ; 


for with them heaven was operi only to legislators and 
conquerors, the civilizers or destroyers of mankind, 
This was, then, the summit of religion in the most 
polished nations in the world ; and even this was con- 
fined to a few philosophers, prodigies of genius and 
literature, who were little attended to, and less under- 
stood by the generality of mankind in their own coun- 
tries ; whilst all the rest were involved in one com- 
mon cloud of ignorance and superstition. 

At this time Christianity broke forth from the 
east like a rising sun, and dispelled this universal 
darkness, which obscured every part of the globe, and 
even at this day prevails in all those remote regions 
to which its salutary influence has not as yet extend- 
ed. From all those which it has reached, it has, 
notwithstanding its corruptions, banished all those 
enormities, and introduced a more rational devotion, 
and pure morals : it has taught men the unity and 
attributes of the Supreme Being, the remission of sins, 
the resurrection of the dead, life everlasting, and the 
kingdom of heaven ; doctrines as inconceivable to the 
wisest of mankind antecedent to its appearance, as 
tiie Newtonian system is at this day to the most igno- 
rant tribes of savages in the wilds of America ; doc- 
trines which human reason never could have discovered; 
but which, when discovered, coincide with, and are 
*onfirmed by it ; and which, though beyond the reach 
of all the learning and penetration of Plato, Aristotle, 
ind Cicero, are now clearly laid open to the eye of 
every peasant and mechanic with the Bible in his 
nand. These are all plain facts, too glaring to be 
contradicted ; and therefore, whatever, we may think 
of the authority of these books, the relations which 


-they contain, or the inspiration of their authors oi 
these facts, no man, who has eyes to read, or ears to 
hear, can entertain a doubt; because there are the 
books, and in them is this religion. 


My third proposition is this; that from this book< 
called the New Testament, may be collected a sys- 
tem of ethics , in which every moral precept, founded 
on reason, is carried to a higher degree of purity 
and perfection than in any other of the ancient philo- 
sophers of preceding ages ; every moral precept, 
founded on false principles, is entirely omitted, and 
many new precepts added, peculiarly corresponding 
with the new object of this religion. 

By a moral precept founded on reason, I mean ail 
those which enforce the practice of such duties as 
reason informs us must improve our nature, and con- 
duce to the happiness of mankind : such are piety to 
God, benevolence to man, justice, charity, temperance, 
and sobriety, with ail those which prohibit the com- 
mission of the contrary vices, all which debase our 
natures, and, by mutual injuries, introduce universal 
disorder, and consequently universal misery. By pre- 
cepts founded on false principles, I mean those which 
recommend fictitious virtues, productive of none of 
these salutary effects, and therefore, however cele- 
brated and admired, are in fact no virtues at all ; such 
are valor, patriotism, and friendship. 

That virtues of the first kind are carried to a highei 
degree of purity r..nd perfection by the Christian 
religion than by any other, it is here unnecessary U 


prove, because this is a truth which has been fre- 
quently demonstrated by her friends, and never once 
denied by the most determined of her adversaries ; but 
it will be proper to show, that those of the latter sort 
are MOST JUDICIOUSLY OMITTED; because they have 
really no intrinsic merit in them, and are tot-ally in- 
compatible with the genius and spirit of this institution. 
Ka/or, for instance, or active courage, is for the 
most part constitutional, and therefore can have no 
more claim to moral merit than wit, beauty, health, 
strength, or any other endowment of the mind or body ; 
and so far is it from producing any salutary effects by 
introducing peace, order, or happiness in society, that 
it is the usual perpetrator of all the violences which, 
from retaliated injuries, distract the world with blood- 
shed and devastation. It is the engine by which the 
strong are enabled to plunder the weak, the proud to 
trample upon the humble, and the guilty to oppress 
the innocent ; it is the chief instrument which ambi- 
tion employs in her unjust pursuits of wealth and 
power, and is therefore so much extolled by her vota- 
ries : it was indeed congenial with the religion of 
pagans, whose gods were, for the most part, made out 
of deceased heroes, exalted to heaven as a reward for 
the mischiefs which they had perpetrated upon earth ; 
an 1 therefore, with them this was the first of virtues, 
ar i had even engrossed that denomination to itself. 
But whatever merit it may have assumed among 
pagans, with Christians it can pretend to none, and 
few or none are the occasions in which they are per- 
mitted to exert it. They are so far from being allowed 
to inflict evil, that they are forbid even to resist it ; 
they are so far from being encouraged to revenge in- 


juries, that one of their first duties is to forgive them ; 
so far from being incited to destroy their enemies, 
that they are commanded to love them, and serve 
them to the utmost of their power. If Christian 
nations therefore were nations of Christians, all war 
would be impossible and unknown amongst them, and 
valor could be neither of use or estimation, and there- 
fore could never have a place in the catalogue of 
Christian virtues, being irreconcilable with all its pre- 
cepts. I object not to the praise and honors bestowed 
on the valiant : they are the least tribute which can 
be paid them by those who enjoy safety and affluence 
by the intervention of their dangers and sufferings : 
I assert only, that active courage can never be a 
Christian virtue, because a Christian can have nothing 
to do with it. Passive courage is indeed frequently 
and properly inculcated by this meek and suffering re- 
ligion, under the titles of patience and resignation: a 
real and substantial virtue this, and a direct contrast 
to the former ; for passive courage arises from the 
noblest dispositions of the human mind, from a con- 
tempt of misfortunes, pain, and death, and a confi- 
dence in the protection of the Almighty : active from 
the meanest ; from passion, vanity, and self-depend- 
ence. Passive courage is derived from a zeal for 
truth, and a perseverance in duty ; active is the 
offspring of pride and revenge, and the parent of cru- 
olty and injustice ; in short, passive courage is the 
resolution of a philosopher ; active, the ferocity of a 
savage. Nor is this more incompatible with the 
precepts, than with the object of this religion, which 
is the attainment of the kingdom of heaven ; for valor 
is not that sort of violence by which that kingdom is 


to be taken ; nor are the turbulent spirits of heroes 
and conquerors admissible into those regions of peace, 
subordination, and tranquility. 

Patriotism, also, that celebrated virtue, so much 
practised in ancient, and so much professed in modern 
times ; that virtue which so long preserved the liber- 
ties of Greece, and exalted Rome to the empire of the 
world ; this celebrated virtue, I say, must also be ex- 
cluded, because it not only falls short of, but directly 
counteracts the extensive benevolence of this religion. 
A Christian is of no country, he is a citizen of the 
world ; and his neighbors and countrymen are the in- 
habitants of the remotest regions, whenever their dis- 
tresses demand his friendly assistance. Christianity 
commands- us to love all mankind ; patriotism to op- 
press all other countries to advance the imaginary pros- 
perity of our own. Christianity enjoins us to imitate 
the universal benevolence of our Creator, who pours 
forth his blessings on every nation upon earth ; patriot- 
ism to copy the mean partiality of an English parish 
officer, who thinks injustice and cruelty meritorious 
whenever they promote the interests of his own in- 
considerable village. This has ever been a favorite 
virtue with mankind, because it conceals self-interest 
under the mask of public spirit, not only from others, 
but even from themselves, and gives a license to in- 
flict wrongs and injuries, not only with impunity, but 
with applause ; but it is so diametrically opposite to 
the great characteristic of this institution, that it ne- 
ver could have been admitted into the list of Chris- 
tian virtues. 

Friendship, likewise, although more congenial to 
the principles of Christianity, arising from more ten- 


der and amiable dispositions, could never gain admit- 
tance amongst her benevolent precepts for the same 
reason because it is too narrow and confined, and ap- 
propriates that benevolence to a single object which is 
here commanded to be extended over all. Where 
friendships arise from similarity of sentiments and dis- 
interested affections, they are advantageous, agreeable, 
and innocent, but have little pretensions to merit ; for 
it is justly observed, "If ye love them which love 
you, what thank have ye? for sinners-also love those 
that love them." Luke G : 32. But if they are formed 
from alliances in parties, factions, and interests, or 
from a participation of vices, the usual parents of what 
are called friendships among mankind, they are then 
both mischievous and criminal, and consequently for- 
bidden ; but in their utmost purity they deserve no re- 
commendation from this religion. 

To the judicious omission of these false virtues we 
may add that remarkable silence which the Christian 
legislator every where preserves on subjects, esteemed 
by all others of the highest importance, Civil Gorern- 
ment, National Policy, and the Rights of War ami 
Peace. Of these he has not taken the least notice, 
probably for this plain reason, because it would have- 
been impossible to have formed any explicit regula- 
tions concerning them, which must not have been in- 
consistent with the purity of his religion, or with the 
practical observance of such imperfect creatures as 
men, ruling over and contending with each other. 
For instance, had he absolutely forbid all resistance 
to the reigning powers, he had constituted a plan ot 
despotism, and made men slaves ; had he allowed it 
he must have authorized disobedience, and made them 


rebels ; had he, in direct terms, prohibited all war, he 
must have left his followers for ever an easy prey to 
every infidel invader ; had he permitted it, he must 
have licensed all that rapine and murder with which 
it is unavoidably attended. 

Let us now examine what are those NEW PRECEPTS 
in this religion peculiarly corresponding with the new 
object of it: that is, preparing us for the kingdom of 
heaven. Of these, the chief are poorness of spirit, for- 
giveness of injuries, and charity to all men; to these 
we may add rerentance, faith, self-abasement, and a 
detachment from the world, all moral duties peculiar 
to this religion, and absolutely necessary to the attain- 
ment of its end. 

" Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the king- 
dom of heaven." Matthew, 5 : 3. By which, poorness 
of spirit is to be understood a disposition of mind meek, 
humble, submissive to power, void of ambition, patient 
of injuries, and free from all resentment. This was 
so new, and so opposite to the ideas of all Pagan mo- 
ralists, that they thought this temper of mind a crimi- 
nal and contemptible meanness, which must induce 
men to sacrifice the glory of their country and their 
honor to a shameful pusillanimity ; and such it appears 
to almost all who are called Christians, even at this 
day, who not only reject it in practice, but disavow it 
in principle, notwithstanding this explicit declaration 
of their Master. We see them revenging the smallest 
affronts by premeditated murder, as individuals, on 
principles of honor ; and, in their national capacities? 
destroying each other with fire and sword for the low 
considerations of commercial interests, the balance of 


rival powers, or the ambition of princes. We see them 
with their last breath animating each other to a savage 
revenge, and, in the agonies of death, plu aging with 
feeble arms their daggers into the hearts of their oppo- 
nents ; and, what is still worse, we hear all these bar- 
barisms celebrated by historians, flattered by poets, 
applauded in theatres, approved in senates, and even 
sanctified in pulpits. But universal practice cannot 
alter the nature of things, nor universal error change 
the nature of truth. Pride was not made for men, but 
humility, meekness, and resignation; that is, poorness 
of spirit was made for man, and properly belongs to 
his dependent and precarious situation, and is the only 
disposition of mind which can enable him to enjoy 
ease and quiet here and happiness hereafter. Yet was 
this important precept entirely unknown until it was 
promulgated by him who said, " Suffer little children 
to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is 
the kingdom of heaven : Verily I say unto you, whoso- 
ever shill not receive the kindom of God as a little 
child, h ^ shall not enter therein." Mark, 10 : 14. 

Another precept equally new, and no less excellent, 
is forgii eness of injuries. " Ye have heard," says 
Christ, " thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine 
enemy ; lut I say unto you, love your enemies ; bless 
them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, 
and pray for them which despitefully use you and per- 
secute you." Matthew, 5 : 43. This was a lesson so 
new, and so utterly unknown till taught by his doc- 
trines, and enforced by his example, that the wisest 
moralists of the wisest nations and ages represented 
the desire of revenge as a mark of a noble mind, and 
tie accomplishment of it as one of the chief felicities 


attendant on a fortunate man. But how much more 
magnanimous, how much more beneficial to mankind 
is forgiveness ! It is more magnanimous, because 
every generous and exalted disposition of the human 
mind is requisite to the practice of it, for these alone 
can enable us to bear the wrongs and insults of wick- 
edness and folly with patience, and to look down on the 
perpetrators of them with pity, rather than indigna- 
tion ; these alone can teach us that such are but a part 
of those sufferings allotted to us in this state of proba- 
tion ; and to know, that to overcome evil with good, is 
the most glorious of all victories. It is the most bene- 
ficial, because this amiable conduct alone can put an 
end to an eternal succession of injuries and retalia- 
tions ; for every retaliation becomes a new injury, and 
requires another act of revenge for satisfaction. But 
would we observe this salutary precept, to love our 
enemies, and do good to those who despitefully use 
us, this obstinate benevolence would at last conquer 
the most inveterate hearts, and we should have no 
enemies to forgive. How much more exalted a cha- 
racter therefore is a Christian martyr, suffering with 
resignation, and praying for the guilty, than that of a 
Pagan hero, breathing revenge, and destroying the in- 
nocent ? Yet noble and useful as this virtue is, before 
the appearance of this religion it was not only unprac- 
tised, but decried in principle, as mean and ignomini- 
ous, though so dbvious a remedy for most of the mise- 
ries of this life, and so necessary a qualification for the 
happiness of another. 

A third precept, first noticed and first enjoined by 
this institution, is charity to all men. What this is, 
we may best learn from the admirable description 


painted in the following words : " Charity suffereth 
long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunt- 
eth not itself; is not puffed up ; doth not behave itself 
unseemly ; seeketh not her own ; is not easily pro- 
voked ; thinketh no evil ; rejoiceth not in iniquity, 
but rejoiceth in truth; beareth all things; believeth 
all things ; hopeth all things ; endureth all things. " 
1 Cor. 13 : 4. Here we have an accurate delineation of 
this bright constellation of all virtues, which consists 
not, as many imagine, in the building of monasteries, 
endowment of hospitals, or the distribution of alms, 
but in such an amiable disposition of mind as exer- 
cises itself every hour in acts of kindness, patience, 
complacency, and benevolence to all around us, and 
which alone is able to promote happiness in the pre- 
sent life, or render us capable of receiving it in an- 
other: and yet this is totally new, and so it is declared 
to be by the author of it : "A new commandment I 
give unto you. that ye love one another ; as I have 
loved you, that ye also love one another ; by this shall 
all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love 
one to another." John 13 : 34. This benevolent dispo- 
sition is made the great characteristic of a Christian, 
the test of his obedience, and the mark by which he 
is to be distinguished. This love for each other is 
that charity just now described, and contains all those 
qualities which are there attributed to it : humility, 
patience, meekness, and beneficence ; without which 
we must live in perpetual discord, and consequently 
cannot pay obedience to his commandment by loving 
one another : a commandment so sublime, so rational, 
and so beneficial, so wisely calculated to correct the 
depravity, diminish the wickedness, and abate the 


miseries of human nature, that, did we universally 
comply with it, we should soon be relieved from all 
the inquietudes arising from our own unruly passions, 
anger, envy, revenge, malice, and ambition, as well as 
from all those injuries to which we are perpetually 
exposed from the indulgence of the same passions in 
others. It would also preserve our minds in such a 
state of tranquility, and so prepare them for the king- 
dom of heaven, that we should slide out of a life ot 
peace, love, and benevolence, into that celestial socie- 
ty, by an almost imperceptible transition. Yet was 
this commandment entirely new, when given by him, 
who so entitles it, and has made it the capital duty of 
his religion, because the most indispensably necessary 
to the attainment of its great object, the kingdom of 
heaven ; into which, if proud, turbulent, and vindic- 
tive spirits were permitted to enter, they must unavoid- 
ably destroy the happiness of that state, by the opera- 
tions of the same passions and vices by which they 
disturb the present ; and therefore all such must be 
eternally excluded, not only as a punishment, but also 
from incapacity. 

Repentance, by this, we plainly see, is another new 
moral duty strenuously insisted on by this religion, 
and by no other, because absolutely necessary to the 
accomplishment of its end ; for this alone can purge 
us from those transgressions from which we cannot 
be totally exempted in this state of trial and tempta- 
tion, and purify us from that depravity in our nature- 
which renders us incapable of attaining this end. 
Hence, also, we may learn that no repentance can re- 
move this incapacity, but such as entirely changes the 
nature and disposition of the offender 3 which, in the 


language of Scripture, is called " being born again." 
Mere contrition for past crimes, and even the pardon 
of them, cannot effect this, unless it operates to this 
entire conversion or new birth, as it is properly and 
emphatically named ; for sorrow can no more purify a 
mind corrupted by a long continuance in vicious ha- 
bits, than it can restore health to a body distempered 
by a long course of -vice and intemperance. Hence } 
also, every one who is in the least acquainted with 
himself, may judge of the unreasonableness of the hope 
that is in him, and of his situation in a future state, 
by that of his present. If he feels in himself a tem- 
per proud, turbulent, vindictive, and malevolent, and 
a violent attachment to the pleasures or business of 
the world, he may be assured that he must be ex- 
cluded from the kingdom of heaven ; not only because 
his conduct can have no such reward, but because, if 
admitted, he would find there no objects satisfactory 
to his passions, inclinations, and pursuits ; and there- 
fore could only disturb the happiness of others, with- 
out enjoying any share of it himself. 

Faith is another moral duty enjoined by this insti- 
tution, of a species so new, that the philosophers of 
antiquity had no word expressive of this idea, nor any 
such idea to be expressed ; for the word mo-ru, orjidesj 
which we translate faith, was never used by any Pa- 
gan writer in a sense the least similar to that to 
which it is applied in the New Testament, where in 
general it signifies an humble, teachable, and candid 
disposition, a trust in God, and confidence in his pro- 
mises. When applied particularly to Christianity, it 
means no more than a belief of this single proposition, 
that Christ was the Son of God ; that is, in the Ian- 


f*uage of those writings, the Messiah, who was fore* 
told by the prophets, and expected by the Jews ; wha 
was sent by God into the world to preach righteous-- 
ness, judgment, and everlasting life, and to die as an 
atonement for the sins of mankind. This was all that 
Christ required to be believed by those who were will- 
ing to become his disciples : he who does not believe 
this, is not a Christian ; and he who does, believes the 
whole that is essential to his profession, and all that 
is properly comprehended under the name of faith. 
This unfortunate word has indeed been so tortured 
and so misapplied to mean every absurdity which 
artifice could impose upon ignorance, that it has lost 
all pretensions to the title of virtue ; but if brought 
back to the simplicity of its original signification, it 
well deserves that name, because it usually arises 
from the most amiable dispositions, and is always a 
direct contrast to pride, obstinacy, and self-conceit. 
If taken in the extensive sense of an assent to the 
evidence of things not seen, it comprehends the exist- 
ence of a God, and a future state, and is therefore not 
only itself a moral virtue, but the source from whence 
all others must proceed ; for on the belief of these all 
religion and morality must entirely depend. It can- 
not be altogether void of moral excellence, (as some 
represent it,) because it is in a degree voluntary; for 
daily experience shows us, that men not only pretend 
to, but actually do believe, and disbelieve almost any 
propositions which best suit their interests or inclina- 
tions, and unfeignedly change their sincere opinions 
with their situations and circumstances. For we have 
power over the mind's eye, as well as over the body's 
to shut it against the strongest rays of truth and reli- 


gion, whenever they become painful to us ; and to 
open it again to the faint glimmerings of scepticism 
and infidelity, when we " love darkness rather than 
light, because our deeds are evil." John 3 : 19. And 
this, I think, sufficiently refutes all objections to the 
moral nature of faith, drawn from the supposition of 
its being quite involuntary, and necessarily dependent 
on the degree of evidence which is offered to our un- 

Self-abasement is another moral duty inculcated by 
this religion only ; which requires us to impute even 
our own virtues to the grace and favor of our Creator, 
and to acknowledge that we can do nothing good by 
our own powers, unless assisted by his overruling in- 
fluence. This doctrine seems at first sight to infringe 
on our free-will, and to deprive us of all merit ; but, 
on a closer examination, the truth of it may be de- 
monstrated both by reason and experience, and that in 
fact it does not impair the one, or depreciate the other ; 
and that it is productive of so much humility, resigna- 
tion, and dependence on God, that it justly Claims a 
place amongst the most illustrious moral virtues. Yet 
was this duty utterly repugnant to the proud and self- 
sufficient principles of the ancient philosophers, as well 
as modern deists ; and therefore, before the publication 
of the Gospel, totally unknown and uncomprehended. 

Detachment from the world is another moral virtue 
constituted by this religion alone ; so new, that even 
at this day few of its professors can be persuaded that 
it is required, or that it is any virtue at all. By this 
detachment from the world, is not to be understood a 
seclusion from society, abstraction from all business, 
}r retirement to a gloomy cloister. Industry and labor, 


cheerfulness and hospitality, are frequently recom- 
mended ; nor is the acquisition of wealth and honors 
prohibited, if they can be obtained, by honest means 
and a moderate degree of attention and care ; but such 
an unremitted anxiety and perpetual application as 
engross our whole time and thoughts, are forbid, be- 
cause they are incompatible with the spirit of this re- 
ligion, and must utterly disqualify us for the atta,in- 
ment of its great end. We toil on in the vain pursuits 
and frivolous occupations of the world, die in our har- 
ness, and then expect, if no gigantic crime stands in 
the way, to step immediately into the kingdom of hea- 
ven : but this is impossible ! for without a previous de- 
tachment from the business of this world, we cannot 
be prepared for the happiness of another. Yet this 
could make no part of the morality of pagans, because 
their virtues were altogether connected with this bu- 
siness, and consisted chiefly in conducting it with ho- 
nor to themselves and benefit to the public. But Chris- 
tianity has a nobler object in view, which, if not at- 
tended to, must be lost for ever. This object is that 
celestial mansion of which we should never lose; sight, 
and to which we shcjild be ever advancing during our 
journey through life ; but this by no means precludes 
us from performing the business, or enjoying the amuse- 
ments of travelers, provided they detain us not too long, 
nor lead us too far out of our way. 

It cannot be denied, that the great Author of the 
Christian institution first and singly ventured to op- 
pose all the chief principles of pagan virtue, and to 
introduce a religion directly opposite to those erro- 
neous, though long-established opinions, both in its 
duties and in its object. The most celebrated virtues 


of the ancients were high spirit, intrepid courage, and 
implacable resentment. 

Impiger^ iracunduts, inexorabilis, acer, [turbulent, 
irascible, implacable, virulent,] was the portrait of the 
most illustrious hero, drawn by one of the first poets 
of antiquity. To all these admired qualities, those of 
a true Christian are an exact contrast ; for this religion 
constantly enjoins poorness of spirit, meekness, pa- 
tience, and forgiveness of injuries. " But I say unto 
vou, that ye resist not evil ; but whoever shall smite 
thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other also." 
Matt. 5 : 39. The favorite characters among the pa- 
ijans were, the turbulent, ambitious, and intrepid, who, 
through toils and dangers, acquired wealth, and spent 
it in luxury, magnificence, and corruption ; but both 
these are equally adverse to the Christian system^ 
which forbids all extraordinary efforts to obtain wealth, 
care to secure, or thought concerning the enjoyment 
of it. " Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth," 
&c. " Take no thought, saying, what shall we eat, or 
what shall we drink, or wherewithal shall we be cloth- 
ed ? for after all these things do the Gentiles geek." Matt. 
6 : 31. The chief object of the pagans was immortal 
fame ; for this their poets sang, their heroes fought, 
and their patriots died ; and this was hung out by their 
philosophers and legislators as the great incitement 
to all noble and virtuous deeds. But what says the 
Christian legislator to his disciples on this subject? 
" Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and shall 
say all manner of evil against you falsely for my 
sake ; rejoice, and be exceeding glad, for great is your 
reward in heaven." Matt. 5:11. So widely different 
is the genius of thi pagan and Christian morality, that 


I will venture to affirm, that the most celebrated vir- 
tues of the former are not less opposite to the spirit, or 
inconsistent with the end of the latter, than even their 
most infamous vices ; and that a Brutus, wrenching 
vengeance out of his hands to whom alone it belongs, 
by murdering the oppressor of his country ; or a Cato, 
murdering himself from an impatience of control, 
leaves the world as unqualified for, and inadmissible 
into the kingdom of heaven, as even a Messalina, or 
a Heliogabaius, with all their profligacy about them. 
Nothing, I believe, has so much contributed to cor- 
rupt the true spirit of the Christian institution, as that 
partiality which we contract from our earliest educa- 
tion for the manners of pagan antiquity : from whence 
we learn to adopt every moral idea which is repug- 
nant to it; to applaud false virtues, which that disa- 
vows ; to be guided by laws of honor, which that ab- 
hors ; to imitate characters, which that detests ; and to 
behold heroes, patriots, conquerors, and suicides with 
admiration, whose conduct that utterly condemns. 
From a coalition of these opposite principles, was gen- 
erated that monstrous system of cruelty and benevo- 
lence, of barbarism and civility, of rapine and justice, 
of fighting and devotion, of revenge and generosity, 
which harassed the world for several centuries with 
crusades, holy wars, knight-errantry, and single com- 
bats ; and even still retains influence enough, under the 
name of honor, to defeat the most beneficent ends of 
this noly institution. I mean not by this to pass any 
censure on the principles of valor, patriotism, or honor: 
they may be useful, and perhaps necessary, in the 
commerce and business of the present turbulent and 
uuper&ct state ; and these who are actuated by them 


may be virtuous, honest, and even religious men: all 
that I assert is, that they cannot be Christians. A 
Christian may be overpowered by passions and temp- 
tations, and 'his actions may contradict his principles ; 
but a man, whose ruling principle is honor, however 
virtuous he may be, cannot be a Christian, because he 
erects a standard of duty, and deliberately adheres to 
it, diametrically opposite to the whole tenor of that 

The contrast between the Christian, and all other 
institutions, religious or moral, previous to its appear- 
ance, is sufficiently evident ; and surely the superiority 
of the former is as little to be disputed, unless any one 
shall undertake to prove that humility, patience, for- 
giveness, and benevolence are less amiable, and less 
beneficial qualities than pride, turbulence, revenge, and 
malignity : that the contempt of riches is less noble than 
their acquisition by fraud and villainy, or the distribu- 
tion of them to the poor less commendable than ava- 
rice or profusion ; or that a real immortality in the 
kingdom of heaven is an object less exalted, less ra- 
tional, and less worthy of pursuit, than an imaginary 
immortality in the applause of men : that worthless 
tribute, which the folly of one part of mankind pays 
to the wickedness of the other ; a tribute which a wise 
man ought always to despise, because a good man 
can scarce ever obtain. 


If I mistake not, I have now fully established the 
truth of my three propositions : 


First, That there is now extant a book entitled the 
i\ r ew Testament. 

Secondly, That from this book may be extracted a 
system of religion entirely new ; both in its object, 
and its docHnes; not only superior to, but totally un- 
like every thing which had ever before entered into 
the mind of man. 

Thirdly, That from this book may likewise be col- 
lected a system of ethics, in which every moral pre- 
cept, founded on reason, is carried to a higher degree 
of purity and perfection than in any other of the 
wisest philosophers of preceding ages; every moral 
precept, founded on false principles, totally omitted ; 
and many new precepts added, peculiarly correspond- 
ing with the new object of this religion. 

Every one of these propositions, I am persuaded, is 
incontrovertibly true ; and if true, this short but cer- 
tain conclusion must inevitably follow ; thai suck a 
system of religion and morality could not possibly 
have been the work of any man, or &'et of men, much 
less of those obscure, ignorant, and illiterate persons 
who actually did discover and publish it to the world ; 
and that therefore it must have been effected by the 
supernatural interposition of Divine power and 
wisdom ; that is, that it must derive its origin from 

This argument seems to me little short of demon- 
stration, and is indeed founded on the very same rea- 
soning by which the material world is proved to be the 
work of his invisible hand. We view with admiration 
the heavens and the earth, and all therein contained; 
we contemplate with amazement the minute bodies 
of animals too small for perception, and the immense 
4* * 


planetary orbs too vast for imagination. We are cer- 
tain that these cannot be the works of man ; and there- 
fore we conclude, with reason, that they must be the 
productions of an omnipotent Creator. In the same 
manner we see here a scheme of religion and morality 
unlike and superior to all ideas of the human mind, 
equally impossible to have been discovered by the 
knowledge, as invented by the artifice of man ; and 
therefore by the very same mode of reasoning, and 
with the same justice, we conclude, that it must de- 
rive its origin from the same omnipotent and omnis- 
cient Being. 

Nor was the propagation of this religion less ex- 
traordinary than the religion itself, or less above the 
reach of all human power, than the discovery of it 
was above that of all human understanding. It is 
well known, that in the course of a very few years it 
was spread over all the principal parts of Asia and of 
Europe, and this by the ministry only of an inconsi- 
derable number of the most inconsiderable persons ; 
that at this time Paganism was in the highest repute, 
believed universally by the vulgar, and patronized by 
the great ; that the wisest men of the wisest nations 
assisted at its sacrifices, and consulted its oracles on 
the most important occasions. Whether these were 
the tricks of the priests or of the devil, is of no conse- 
quence, as they were both equally unlikely to be con- 
verted, or overcome : the fact is certain, that, on the 
preaching of a few fishermen, their altars were desert- 
ed, and their deities were dumb. This miracle they 
undoubtedly performed, whatever we may think of the 
rest ; and this is surely sufficient to prove the authori- 
ty of their commission ; and to convince us, that nei- 


ther their undertaking nor the execution of it could 
possibly be their own. 

How much this Divine institution has been cor- 
rupted, or how soon these corruptions began ; how far 
it has been discolored by the false notions of illiterate 
ages, or blended with fictions by pious frauds ; or how 
early these notions and fictions were introduced, it 
may be difficult now precisely to ascertain ; but sure- 
ly, no man, who seriously considers the excellence 
and novelty of its doctrines, the manner in which it 
was at first propagated through the world, the persons 
who achieved that wonderful work, and the originali- 
ty of those writings in which it is still recorded, can 
possibly believe that it could ever have been the pro- 
duction of imposture or chance ; or that from an im- 
posture the most wicked and blasphemous, (for if an 
imposture, such it is,) all the religion and virtue now 
existing on earth can derive their source. 

But, notwithstanding what has been here urged, if 
any man can believe that, at a time when the litera- 
ture of Greece and Rome, then in their meridian lus- 
tre, were insufficient for the task, the son of a carpen- 
ter, with twelve of the humblest and most illiterate 
men, his associates, unassisted by any supernatural 
power, should be able to discover or invent a system 
of theology the most sublime, and of ethics the most 
perfect, which had escaped the penetration and learn- 
ing of Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero; and that from 
this system, by their own sagacity, they had excluded 
every false virtue, though universally admired, and 
admitted every true virtue, though despised and ridi- 
culed by all the rest of the world ; if any one can be- 
lieve that these men could become impostors, for no 


other purpose than the propagation of truth, villains 
for no end but to teach honesty, and martyrs, without 
the least prospect of honor or advantage ; or that, if 
all this should have been possible, these fe\v inconsi- 
derable persons should have been able, in the course 
of a few years, to have spread this their religion over 
most parts of the then known world, in opposition to 
the interests, pleasures, ambition, prejudices, and even 
reason of mankind ; to have triumphed over the power 
of princes, the intrigues of states, the force of custom, 
the blindness of zeal, the influence of priests, the ar- 
guments of orators, and the philosophy of the world, 
without any supernatural assistance ; if any one can 
believe all these miraculous events, contradictory to 
the experience of the powers and dispositions of hu- 
man nature, he must be possessed of much more faith 
than is necessary to make him a Christian, and re- 
main an unbeliever from mere credulity. 

But should these credulous infidels, after all, be in 
the right, and this pretended revelation be all a fable, 
from believing it what harm could ensue ? Would il 
render princes more tyrannical, or subjects more un- 
governable? the rich more insolent, or the poor more 
disorderly? Would it make worse parents or children, 
husbands or wives, masters or servants, friends or 
neighbors? Or would it not make men more virtuous, 
and consequently more happy in every situation ? It 
could not be criminal ; it could not be detrimental. It 
could not be criminal, because it cannot be a crime to 
assent to such an evidence as has been able to con- 
vince the best and wisest of mankind ; by which, if 
false, Providence must have permitted men to deceive 
each other for the most beneficial ends, and which, 


therefore, it would be surely more meritorious to be- 
lieve from a disposition of faith and charity, which 
believethall things, than to reject, with scorn, from ob- 
stinacy and self-conceit. It cannot be detrimental, 
because, if Christianity is a fable, it is a fable the be- 
lief of which is the only principle which can retain 
men in a steady and uniform course of virtue, piety, 
and devotion ; or can support them in the hour of dis- 
tress, of sickness, and of death. Whatever mignt be 
the operations of true deism on the minds of Pagan phi- 
losophers, that can now avail us nothing ; for that light 
which once lightened them, is now absorbed in the 
brighter illumination of the Gospel : we can now form 
no rational system of deism but what must be borrow- 
ed from that source ; and, as far as it reaches towards 
perfection, must be exactly the same ; and therefore, 
if we will not accept of Christianity, we have no reli- 
gion at all. Accordingly, we see that those who fly 
from this, scarce ever stop at deism, but hasten on with 
alacrity to a total rejection of all religious and moral 
principles whatever. 

If I have here demonstrated the divine origin of the 
Christian religion by an argument which cannot be 
confuted, no others, however plausible or numerous, 
founded on probabilities, doubts, and conject?ires, can 
ever disprove it ; because if it is once shown to be true, 
it cannot be false. But as many arguments of this 
kind have bewildered some candid and ingenuous 
minds, I shall here bestow a few lines on those which 
have the most weight, in order to wipe out, or at least 
to diminish, their perplexing influence. 

But here I must previously observe, that the most 


insurmountable, as well as the most usual obstacle to 
our belief, arises from our passions, appetites, and in 
terests ; for faith being an act of the will as much as 
of the understanding, we oftener disbelieve for want 
of inclination than want of evidence. The first step 
towards thinking this revelation true, is our hope that 
it is so ; for whenever we much wish any proposi- 
tion to be true, we are not far from believing it. It 
is certainly for the interest of all good men that its 
authority should be well founded, and still more bene- 
ficial to the bad, if ever they intend to be better, be- 
cause it is the only system, either of reason or reli- 
gion, which can give them any assurance of pardon. 
The punishment of vice is a debt due to justice, which 
cannot be remitted without compensation. Repen- 
tance can be no compensation ; it may change a wick- 
ed man's disposition, and prevent his offending for the 
future, but can lay no claim to pardon for what is past. 
If any one, by profligacy and extravagance, contracts 
a debt, repentance may make him wiser and hinder 
him from running into farther distresses, but can never 
pay off his old bonds, for which he must be ever ac- 
countable, unless they are discharged by himself, or 
some other in his stead. This very discharge Chris- 
tianity alone holds forth on our repentance, and, if 
true, will certainly perform ; the truth of it, therefore 
must ardently be wished for by all, except the wicked, 
who are determined neither to repent nor reform. It 
is well worth every man's 'while, who either is, or in- 
tends to be virtuous, to believe Christianity if he can, 
oecause he will find it the surest preservative against 
ill vicious habits and their attendant evils ; the best 
resource under distresses and disappointmeuts, ill- 


health and ill-fortune ; and the firmest basis on which 
contemplation can rest ; and without some, the human 
mind is never perfectly at ease. But if any one is at- 
tached to a favorite pleasure, or eagerly engaged in 
worldly pursuits, incompatible with the precepts of 
this religion, and he believes it, he must either relin- 
quish those pursuits with uneasiness, or persist in 
them with remorse and dissatisfaction, and therefore 
must commence unbeliever in his own defence. With 
such I shall not dispute, nor pretend to persuade men 
by arguments to make themselves miserable ; but to 
those who, not afraid that this religion may be true, 
are really affected by such objections, I will offer the fol- 
lowing answers, which, though short, will, I doubt not, 
be sufficient to show them their weakness and futility - 
In the first place, then, some have been so bold as 
to strike at the root of all revelation from God, by as- 
serting that it is incredible, because unnecessary, and 
unnecessary because the reason which he has bestow- 
ed on mankind is sufficiently able to discover all the 
religious and moral duties which he requires of them, 
if they would but attend to her precepts, and be guid- 
ed by her friendly admonitions. Mankind have un- 
doubtedly, at various times, from the remotest ages, 
received so much knowledge by divine communica- 
tions, and have ever been so much inclined to impute 
it all to their own sufficiency, that it is now difficult 
to determine what human reason, unassisted, can ef- 
fect. But to form a true judgment on this subject, let 
us turn our eyes to those remote regions of the globe 
to which this supernatural assistance has never yet 
extended, and we shall there see men endued with 
sense and reason, not inferior to our own, so far from 


being capable of forming systems of religion and mo- 
rality, that they are at this day totally unable to make 
a nail or a hatchet; from whence we may surely be 
convinced that reason alone is so far from being suffi- 
cient to offer to mankind a perfect religion, that it haa 
never yet been able to lead them to any degree of cul- 
ture or civilization whatever. These have uniformly 
flowed from that great fountain of divine communica- 
tion opened in the East, in the earliest ages, and thence 
been gradually diffused in salubrious streams through- 
out the various regions of the earth. Their rise and 
progress, by surveying the history of the world, may 
easily be traced backwards to their source ; and where- 
ever these have not as yet been able to penetrate, 
we there find the human species not only void of all 
true religious and moral sentiments, but not the least 
emerged from their original ignorance and barbarity ; 
which seems a demonstration, that although human 
reason is capable of progression in science, yet the first 
foundations must be laid by supernatural instructions , 
for surely no other probable cause can be assigned why 
finy one part of mankind should have made such an 
umazing progress in religious, moral, metaphysical, and 
philosophical inquiries ; such wonderful improvements 
in policy, legislation, commerce, and manufactures 5 
while the other part, formed with the same natural capa- 
cities, and divided only by seas and mountains, should 
remain, during the same number of ages, in a state little 
superior to brutes, without government, without laws or 
letters, and eve-n without clothes and habitations ; mur- 
dering each other to satiate their revenge, and devouring 
each other to appease their hunger. I say no cause can 
be assigned for this amazing difference, except that the 

49] ON camsTiANiTY. 45 

first have received information from those divine com- 
munications recorded in the Scriptures, and the latter 
have never yet been favored with such assistance. 
This remarkable contrast seems an unanswerable, 
though, perhaps, a new proof of the necessity of reve- 
lation, and a solid refutation of all arguments against 
it, drawn from the sufficiency of human reason. And 
as reason, in her natural state, is thus incapable of 
making any progress in knowledge, so when furnished 
with materials by supernatural aid, if left to the guid- 
ance of her own wild imaginations, she falls into more 
numerous and more gross errors than her own native 
ignorance could ever have suggested. There is then 
no absurdity so extravagant which she is not ready to 
adopt ; she has persuaded some that there is no God ; 
others, that there can be no future state ; she has taught 
some that there is no difference between vice and vir- 
tue, and that to cut a man's throat, and to relieve his 
necessities, are actions equally meritorious ; she has 
convinced many that they have no free will, in oppo* 
sition to their own experience ; some, that there can 
be no such thing as soul or spirit, contrary to their own 
perceptions ; and others, no such thing as matter or 
body, in contradiction to their senses. By analyzing 
all things, she can show that there is nothing in any 
thing; by perpetual sifting, she can reduce all exis- 
tence to the invisible dust of scepticism ; and, by re- 
curring to first principles, prove, to the satisfaction of 
her followers, that there are no principles at all. How 
far such a guide is to be depended on, in the important 
concerns of religion and morals, I leave to the judg- 
ment of every considerate man to determine. This 
is certain, that human reason, in its highest state of 


cultivation amongst the philosophers of Greece and 
Rome, was never able to form a religion comparable 
to Christianity ; nor have all those sources of moral 
virtue, such as truth, beauty, and the fitness of things, 
which modern philosophers have endeavored to sub- 
stitute in its stead, ever been effectual to produce good 
men ; and have themselves often been the productions 
of some of the worst. 

Others there are, who allow that a revelation from 
God may be both necessary and credible, but alledge, 
that the Scriptures, that is the books of the Old and 
New Testament, cannot be that revelation ; because 
in them are to be found errors and inconsistencies, 
fabulous stories, false facts, and false philosophy, 
which can never be derived from the fountain of all 
wisdom and truth. To this I reply, that the Scrip- 
tures are the history of a revelation from God : the 
revelation itself is derived from God; the history of 
it is the production of men, and therefore the truth of 
it is not in the least affected by their fallibility, but de- 
pends on the internal evidence of its own supernatu- 
ral excellence. If, in these books, such a religion as 
has been here described actually exists, no seeming, 
or even real defects found in them can disprove the 
Divine origin of this religion, or invalidate my argu- 
ment. Let us, for instance, grant that the Mosaic 
history of the creation was founded on the erroneous 
but popular principles of those early ages, who im- 
agined the earth to be a vast plain, and the celestial 
bodies no more than luminaries hung up in the con- 
cave firmament to enlighten it; will it from thence 
follow, that Moses could not be a proper instrument, 
in the hands of Providence, to impart to the Jews a 


Divine law, because he was not inspired with a fore- 
knowledge of the Copernican and Newtonian systems 1 
or that Christ must be an impostor, because Moses 
was not an astronomer ? Let us also suppose that 
the accounts of Christ's temptation in the wilderness, 
the devil's taking refuge in the herd of swine, with 
several other narrations in the New Testament, fre- 
quently ridiculed by unbelievers, were all hut stories 
accommodated to the ignorance and superstitions of 
the times and countries in which they were written, 
would this impeach the excellence of the Christian 
religion, or the authority of its founder? The sacred 
writers were undoubtedly directed by supernatural 
influence in all things necessary to the great work 
which they were appointed to perform. At particular 
times, and on particular occasions, they were enabled 
to utter prophecies, to speak languages, and to work 
miracles ; but in the science of history, geography, 
astronomy, and philosophy, they appear to have been 
no better instructed than others. They related facts 
like honest men ; they recorded the divine lessons 
of'their master with the utmost fidelity ; and apparent 
discrepancies prove only that they did not act or 
write in a combination to deceive, but do not in the 
least impeach the truth of the revelation which they 
published; which depends not on any external evi- 
dence whatever. For I will venture to affirm, that if 
any one could prove, what is impossible to be proved, 
because it is not true, that there are errors in geogra- 
phy, chronology, and philosophy, in every page of the 
Bible , that the prophecies therein delivered are all 
out fortunate guesses, or artful applications, and the 
miracles there recorded no beiter than legendary 


tales j if one could show that these books were never 
written by their pretended authors, but were posterior 
impositions on illiterate and credulous ages; all these 
wonderful discoveries would prove no more than this,, 
that God, for reasons to us unknown, had thought 
proper to permit a revelation, by him communicated 
to mankind, to be mixed with their ignorance, and 
corrupted by their frauds from its earliest infancy, 
in the same manner in which he has visibly permitted 
it to be mixed and corrupted from that period to the 
present hour. If, in these books, a religion superior to 
all human imagination actually exists, it is of no con- 
sequence, to the proof of its Divine origin, by what 
means it was there introduced, or with what human 
errors and imperfections it is blended. A diamond, 
though found in a bed of mud, is still a diamond ; nor 
can the dirt, which surrounds it, depreciate its value 
or destroy its lustre. 

To some speculative and relined observers, it has 
appeared incredible that a wise and benevolent Crea- 
tor should have constituted a world upon one plan, 
and a religion for it on another," that is, that he 
should have revealed a religion to mankind which 
not only contradicts the principal passions and incli- 
nations which he has implanted in their natures, but 
is incompatible with the whole economy of that world 
which he has created, and in which he has thought pro- 
per to place them. "This, (say they.) with regard to 
Christianity, is apparently the case: the love of power, 
riches, honor, and fame, are the great incitements to 
generous and magnanimous actions ; yet by this insti- 
tution are all these depreciated and discouraged. Go- 
vernment fs esscntiaAo the nature of man, and cannot 


be managed without certain degrees of violence, cor- 
ruption, and imposition; yet are all these strictly 
forbid. Nations cannot subsist without wars, nor 
war be carried on without repine, desolation, and 
murder ; yet are these prohibited under the severest 
threats. The non-resistance of evil must subject in- 
dividuals to continual oppression, and leave nations 
a defenceless prey to their enemies ; yet is this recom- 
mended. Perpetual patience under insults and in- 
juries must every day provoke new insults and new 
injuries ; yet is this enjoined. A neglect of all we 
eat and drink and wear, must put an end to all com- 
merce, manufactures, and industry ; yet is this requir- 
ed. In short, were these precepts universally obeyed, 
the disposition of all human affairs must be entirely 
changed, and the business of the world, constituted 
as it now is, could not go on." To all this I answer, 
that such indeed is the Christian revelation, though 
some of its advocates may perhaps be unwilling to 
own it, and such it is constantly declared to be by 
him who gave it, as well as by those who published 
it under his immediate direction: to these he says, 
" If ye were of the world, the world would love his 
own ; but because ye are not of the world, but I have 
chosen you out of the world, therefore the world 
hateth you." John 15: 19. To the Jews he declares, 
"ye are of this world; I am not of this world." John 
8 : 23. St. Paul writes to the Romans, " Be not con- 
formed to this world," Rom. 12 : 2 ; and to the Corin- 
thians, "We speak not the wisdom of this world." 
Cor. 2: 6. St.* James says, "Know ye not that the 
friendship of the world is enmity with God ? whoso- 
ever therefore will be a friend of the world is the 


enemy of God." James, 4: 4. This irreconcilable dis- 
agreement between Christianity and the world is 
announced in numberless other places in the New 
Testament, and indeed by the whole tenor of those 
writings. These are plain declarations, which in 
spite of all the. evasions of those good managers, who 
choose to take a little of this world in their way to 
heaven, stand fixed and immovable against all their 
arguments drawn from public benefit and pretended 
necessity, and must ever forbid any reconciliation 
between the pursuits of this world and the Christian 
institution : but they, who reject it on this account, 
enter not into the sublime spirit of this religion, which 
is not a code of precise laws designed for the well or- 
dering of society, adapted to the ends of worldly con- 
venience, and amenable to the tribunal of human 
prudence ; but a Divine lesson of purity and perfec- 
tion, so far superior to the low considerations of con- 
quest, government, and commerce, that it takes no 
more notice of them than of the battles of game-cocks, 
the policy of bees, or the industry of ants. They 
recollect not what is the first and principal object of 
this institution; that it is not, as has been often re- 
peated, to make us happy, or even virtuous in the 
present life, for the sake of augmenting our happiness 
here, but to conduct us through a state of dangers and 
sufferings, of sin and temptation, in such a manner as 
to qualify us for the enjoyment of happiness hereafter. 
All other institutions of religion and morals were made 
for the world, but the characteristic of this is to be 
against it; and therefore the merits of Christian doc- 
irines are not to be weighed in the scales of public util- 
ity, like those of moral precepts, because worldly util- 


ity is not their end. If Christ and his apostles had 
pretended that the religion which they preached would 
advance the power, wealth, and prosperity of nations, 
or of men, they would have deserved hut little credit; 
but they constantly profess the contrary, and every 
where declare, that their religion is adverse to the 
world, and all its pursuits. Christ says, speaking of 
his disciples, "They are not of the world, even as I 
am not of the world." John, 17 : 16. It can therefore 
be no imputation on this religion, or on any of its pre- 
cepts, that they tend not to an end which their author 
professedly disclaims : nor can it surely be deemed a 
defect, that it is adverse to the vain pursuits of this 
world ; for so are reason, wisdom and experience ; they 
all teach us the same lesson, they all demonstrate to 
us every day, that these are begun on false hopes, car- 
ried on with disquietude, and end in disappointment. 
This professed incompatibility with the little, wretch 
ed, and iniquitous business of the world, is therefore 
so far from being a defect in this religion, that, was 
there no other proof of its divine origin, this alone, I 
think, would be abundantly sufficient. The great plan 
and benevolent design of this dispensation is plainly 
this : to enlighten the minds, purify the religion, and 
amend the morals of mankind in general, and to select 
those of them who believe in its divine author and 
obey his commands, to be successively transplanted 
into fhe kingdom of heaven: which gracious offer is 
impartially tendered to all, who by faith in him, per- 
severance in meekness, patience, piety, charity, and 
a detachment from the world, are willing to qualify 
themselves for this holy and happy society. Was this 
universally accepted, and did every man observe strici- 


ly every precept of the Gospel, the face of human af- 
fairs and the economy of the world would indeed be 
greatly changed; but surely they would be changed 
for the better ; and we should enjoy much more hap- 
piness, even here, than at present : for we must not 
forget, that evils are by it forbid, as well as resistance ; 
injuries, as well as revenge; all unwillingness to dif- 
fuse the enjoyments of life, as well as solicitude to ac- 
quire them ; all obstacles to ambition, as well as am- 
bition itself; and therefore all contentions for power 
and interest would be at an end ; and the world would 
go on much more happily than it now does. But this 
universal acceptance of -such an offer was not ex 
pected from so depraved and imperfect a creature as 
man : it was foreknown and foretold by him who mads 
it, that few, very few, would accept it on these terms. 
He says, " Jtrait is the gate, and narrow is the way 
which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." 
Matt. 7 : 14. Accordingly, we see that very few are 
prevailed on by the hope of future happiness to relin- 
quish the pursuit of present pleasures or interests ; and 
therefore, these pursuits are little interrupted by the 
secession of so inconsiderable a number. As the na- 
tural world subsists by the struggles of the same ele- 
ments, so does the moral by the contentions of the 
same passions, as from the beginning. The generality 
of mankind are actuated by the same motives ; fight, 
scuffle, and scramble for power, riches, and pleasures, 
with the same eagerness ; all occupations and profes- 
sions are exercised with the same alacrity; and there 
are soldiers, lawyers, statesmen, patriots, and politi- 
cians, just as if Christianity had never existed. Thus, 
\ve see this wonderful dispensation has answered all 


the purposes for which it was intended : it has en- 
lightened the minds, purified the religion, and amended 
the morals of mankind ; and, without subverting the 
constitution, policy, or business of the world, opened 
a gate, though a strait one, through which all, who 
are wise enough to choose it, and are fitted for it, may 
find an entrance into the kingdom of heaven. 

Others have said, that if this revelation had really 
been from God, his infinite power and goodness could 
never have suffered it to have been so soon perverted 
from, its original purity, to have continued in a state 
of corruption through the course of so many ages, and 
at last to have proved so ineffectual to the reformation 
of mankind. To these I answer, that all this, on exa- 
mination, must be expected to result from the nature 
of all revelations communicated to so imperfect a 
creature as man, and from circumstances peculiar to 
the rise and progress of the Christian in particular ; 
for when this was first preached to the Gentile nations, 
though they were not able to withstand the force of 
its evidence, and therefore received it, yet they could 
not be prevailed on to relinguish their old supersti- 
tions, and former opinions, but chose rather to incor- 
porate them with it ; by which means it was necessa- 
rily mixed with their ignorance, and their learning; 
by both which it was equally injured. The people de- 
faced its worship by blending it with their idolatrous 
ceremonies, and the philosophers corrupted its doc- 
trines by weaving them up with the notions of the 
Gnostics, Mystics, and Mamchreans, the prevailing 
systems of those times. By degrees its irresistible 
excellence gained over princes, potentates, and con- 
querors to its interests, and it was supported by their 


patronage, but that patronage soon engaged it in their 
policies and contests, and destroyed that excellence by 
which it had been acquired. At length the meek am! 
humble professors of the Gospel enslaved these princes 
and conquered these conquerors, their patrons, and 
erected for themselves [in the Papal church] such a 
stupendous fabric of wealth and power as the world 
had never seen. They then propagated their religion 
by the same methods by which it had been persecuted ; 
nations were converted by fire and sword, and the van- 
quished were baptized with daggers at their throats. 
All these events we see proceed from a chain of causes 
and consequences, which could not have been broken 
without changing the established course of things by 
a constant series of miracles, or a total alteration of 
human nature. Whilst that continues as it is, the 
purest religion must be corrupted by a conjunction 
with power and riches ; and it will also then appear to 
be much more corrupted than it really is, because many 
are inclined to think that every deviation from its pri- 
mitive state is a corruption. Christianity was at first 
preached by the poor and mean, in holes and caverns, 
under the iron rod of persecution ; and therefore many 
absurdly conclude, that any degree of wealth or pow- 
er in its ministers, or of magnificence in its worship, 
are corruptions inconsistent with the genuine simpli- 
city of its original state : they are offended, that mo- 
dern bishops should possess titles, palaces, revenues, 
and coaches, when it is notorious, that their predeces- 
sors, the apostles, were despised wanderers, without 
houses or money, and walked on foot. The apostles in- 
deed lived in a state of poverty and persecution atten- 
dant on their particular situation, and the work which 


they had undertaken ; but this was no part of their re- 
ligion, and it can be no more incumbent on their suc- 
cessors to imitate their poverty and meanness, than to 
be whipped, imprisoned, and put to death, in compli- 
ance with their example. These are all but the sug- 
gestions of envy and malevolence, but no objections 
to these favorable alterations in Christianity and its 
professors ; which, if not abused to the purposes of 
tyranny and superstition, are in fact no more than the 
necessary and proper effects of its more prosperous 
situation. When a poor man grows rich, or a servant 
becomes a master, they should take care that their ex- 
altation prompts them not to be unjust or insolent; 
but surely it is not requisite or right, that their be- 
havior and mode of living should be exactly the same, 
when their situation is altered. How far this institu* 
tion has been effectual to the reformation of mankind. 
it is not easy now to ascertain, because the enormities 
which prevailed before the appearance of it are by time 
so far removed from our sight that they are scarcely 
visible ; but those of the most gigantic size still re- 
main in the records of history, as monuments of the 
rest. Wars in those ages were carried on with a fe- 
rocity and cruelty unknown to the present : whole ci- 
ties and nations were extirpated by fire and sword ; 
and thousands of the vanquished were crucified and 
impaled for having endeavored only to defend them- 
selves and their country. The lives of new-born in- 
fants were then entirely at the disposal of their pa- 
rents, who were at liberty to bring them up, or expose 
them to perish by cold and hunger, or to be devoured 
by birds and beasts ; and this was frequently practised 
without punishment, and even without censure. Gla j 


diators \vere employed by hundreds to cut one another 
to pieces in public theatres for the diversion of the 
most polite assemblies ; and though these combatants 
at first consisted of criminals only, by degrees men of 
the highest rank, and even ladies of the most illustri- 
ous families, enrolled themselves in this honorable 
list. On many occasions human sacrifices were or- 
dained; and at the funerals of rich and eminent per- 
sons, great numbers of the slaves were murdered as 
victims pleasing to their departed spirits. The most 
infamous obscenities were made part of their religious 
worship, and the most unnatural lusts publicly avow- 
ed and celebrated by their most admired poets. At 
the approach of Christianity all these horrid abomina- 
tions vanished ; and amongst those who first embraced 
it, scarce n single vice was to be found. To such an 
amazing degree of piety, charity, temperance, pa- 
tience, and resignation were the primitive converts 
exalted, that they seem literally to have been regene- 
rated, and purified from all the imperfections of hu- 
man nature ; and to have pursued such a constant and 
uniform course of devotion, innocence, and virtue, as 
in the present times it is almost as difficult for us to 
conceive as to imitate. If it is asked, why should not 
the belief of the same religion now produce the same 
effects? the answer is short, because to so great an 
extent it is not believed. The most sovereign medi- 
cine can perform no cure, if the patient will not be 
persuaded to take it. Yet, notwithstanding all impe- 
diments, it has certainly done a great deal towards 
diminishing the vices, and correcting the dispositions 
of mankind ; and was it universally adopted in belief 
and practice, would totally eradicate both sin and pun- 


Objections have likewise been raised to the Divine 
authority of this religion from the incredibility of some 
of its doctrines, particularly of those concerning the 
Trinity, and atonement for sin by the sufferings and 
death of Christ ; the one contradicting all the princi- 
ples of human reason, and the other all our ideas of 
Divine justice. To these objections I shall only say, 
that no arguments, founded on principles which we 
cannot comprehend, can possibly disprove a proposi- 
tion already proved on principles which we do under- 
stand ; and, therefore, that on this subject they ought 
not to be attended to. That three Beings should be 
one Being, is a proposition which certainly contra- 
dicts reason, that is, our reason ; but it does not from 
thence follow, that it cannot be true; for there are 
many propositions which contradict our reason, and 
yet are demonstrably true. One is the very first prin- 
ciple of all religion, the being of a God ; for that any 
thing should exist without a cause, or that any thing 1 
should be the cause of its own existence, are proposi- 
tions equally contradictory to our reason ; yet one of 
them must be true, or nothing could ever have existed. 
In like manner the overruling grace of the Creator, and 
the free-will of his creatures, his certain foreknowledge 
of future events, and the uncertain contingency of 
those events, are to our apprehensions absolute con- 
tradictions to each other ; and yet the truth of every 
one of these is demonstrable from Scripture, reason, 
and experience. All these difficulties arise from our 
imagining that the mode of existence of all beings 
must be similar to our own ; that is, that they must 
all exist in time and space ; and hence proceeds our 
embarrassment on this subject. We know that no 


two beings, with whose mode of existence we are ac- 
quainted, can exist in the same point of time, in the 
same point of space, and that therefore they cannot be 
one; but how far beings, whose mode of existence bears 
no relation to time or space, may be united, we cannot 
comprehend ; and therefore the possibility of such a 
union we cannot positively deny. In like manner our 
reason informs us, that the punishment of the innocent, 
instead of the guilty, is diametrically opposite to jus- 
tice, rectitude, and all pretensions to utility; but we 
should also remember, that the short line of our reason 
cannot reach to the bottom of this question : it cannot 
inform us by what means either guilt or punishment 
ever gained a place in the works of a Creator infinitely 
good and powerful, whose goodness must have in- 
duced him, and whose power must have enabled him 
to exclude them. It cannot assure us, that some suf- 
ferings of individuals are not necessary to the happi- 
ness and well-being of the whole. It cannot convince 
us, that they do not actually arise from this necessity, 
or that for this cause they may not be required of us, 
or that they may not be borne by one being for another ; 
and therefore, if voluntarily offered, be justly accepted 
from the innocent instead of the guilty. Of all these 
circumstances we are totally ignorant; nor can our 
reason afford us any information, and therefore, we 
are not able to assert that this measure is contrary to 
justice, or void of utility. For, unless we could first 
resolve that great question, whence came evil? we 
can decide nothing on the dispensations of Provi- 
dence; because they must necessarily be connected 
with that undiscoverable principle ; and, as we know 
not the root of the disease, we cannot judge of what 


is, or is not, a proper and effectual remedy. It is re- 
markable, that, notwithstanding all the seeming ab- 
surdities of this doctrine, there is one circumstance 
much in its favor ; which is, that it has been univer- 
sally adopted in all ages, as far as history can carry 
us back in our inquiries to the earliest times; in which 
we find all nations, civilized and barbarous, however 
differing in all other religious opinions, agreeing alone 
in the expediency of appeasing their offended deities 
by sacrifices, that is, by the vicarious sufferings of men 
or other animals. These notions could never have 
been derived from reason, because it directly contra- 
dicts it ; nor from ignorance, because ignorance could 
never have contrived so unaccountable an expedient, 
nor have been uniform in all ages and countries in 
any opinion whatsoever ; nor from the artifice of kings 
or priests, in order to acquire dominion over the people, 
because it seems not adapted to this end ; and we find 
it implanted in the minds of the most remote savages 
at this day discovered, who have neither kings nor 
priests, artifice nor dominion amongst them. It must, 
therefore, be derived from natural instinct, or super- 
natural revelation, both which are equally the opera- 
1 tions of Divine power. 

It may be further urged, that however true these 
doctrines may be, yet it must be inconsistent with the 
justice and goodness of the Creator to require from 
his creatures the belief of propositions which contra- 
dict, or are above the reach of that reason which he 
has thought proper to bestow upon them. To this I 
answer, that genuine Christianity requires no such 
belief. It has discovered to us many important truths, 
with which we were before entirely unacquainted 5 


and amongst them are these, that three Beings are 
someway united in the Divine essence, and that God 
will accept of the sufferings of Christ as an atone- 
ment for the sins of mankind. These, considered as 
declarations of facts only, neither contradict, nor are 
above the reach of human reason. The first is a pro- 
position as plain as that three equailateral lines com- 
pose one triangle ; the other is as intelligible as that 
one man should discharge the debts of another. In 
what manner this union is formed, or why God accepts 
these vicarious sufferings, or to what purposes they 
may be subservient, it informs us not, because no in- 
formation could enable us to comprehend these myste- 
ries ; and therefore it does not require that we should 
know or receive them. The truth of these doctrines 
must rest entirely on the authority of those who taught 
them ; but then we should reflect, that those were the 
same persons who taught us a system of religion more 
sublime, and of ethics more perfect, than any which 
our faculties were ever able to discover; but which, 
when discovered, are exactly consonant to our reason ; 
and that, therefore, we should not hastily reject those 
informations which they have vouchsafed to give us, 
of which our reason is not a competent judge. If an 
able mathematician proves to us the truth of several 
propositions, by demonstrations which we understand, 
we hesitate not on his authority to assent to others, 
the process of whose proofs we are not able to follow; 
why, therefore, should we refuse that credit to Christ 
and his apostles which we think reasonable to give to 
one another ? 

Many have objected to the whole scheme of this 
jevelation as partial, fluctuating, indeterminate, un- 


just, and unworthy of an omniscient and omnipotent 
author, who cannot be supposed to have favored parti- 
cular persons, countries, and times, with this Divine 
communication, while others, no less meritorious, have 
been altogether excluded from its benefits ; nor to have 
changed and counteracted his own designs ; that is. 
to have formed mankind able and disposed to render 
themselves miserable by their own wickedness, and 
then to have contrived so strange an expedient to re- 
store them to that happiness which they need nevei 
have been permitted to forfeit ; and this to be brought 
about by the unnecessary interposition of a mediator. 
To all this I shall only say, that however unaccountable 
this may appear to us, who see but as small a part of 
the Christian as of the universal plan of creation, they 
are both, in regard to all these circumstances, exactly 
analogous to each other. In all the dispensations of 
Providence, with which we are acquainted, benefits are 
distributed in a similar manner ; health and strength, 
sense and science, wealth and power, are all bestowed 
on individuals and communities, in different degrees 
and at different times. The whole economy of this 
world consists of evils and remedies ; and these, for the 
most part, administered by the instrumentality of 
intermediate agents. God has permitted us to plunge 
ourselves into poverty, distress, and misery, by our 
own vices, and has afforded us the advice, instruc- 
tions, and examples of others, to deter or extricate us 
from these calamities. He has formed us subject to 
innumerable diseases, and he has bestowed on us a 
variety of remedies. He has made us liable to hunger, 
thirst, and nakedness, and he supplies us with food, 
drink and clothing, usually by the administration of 


others. He has created poisons, and he has provided 
antidotes. He has ordained the winter's cold to cure 
the pestilential beats of the summer, and the summer's 
sunshine to dry up the inundations of the winter. 
Why the constitution of nature is so formed, why all 
the visible dispensations of Providence are such, and 
why such is the Christian dispensation also, we know 
not, nor have faculties to comprehend. God might 
certainly have made the material world a system of 
perfect beauty and regularity, without evils, and 
without remedies ; and the Christian dispensation a 
scheme only of moral virtue, productive of happiness, 
without the intervention of any atonement or media- 
tion. He might have exempted our bodies from all dis- 
eases, and our minds from all depravity ; and we should 
then have stood in no need of medicines to restore us 
to health, or expedients to reconcile us to his favor. 
It seems, indeed, to our ignorance, that this would have 
been more consistent with justice and reason; but 
his infinite wisdom has decided in another manner, 
and formed the systems, both of nature and Christi- 
anity, on other principles, and these so exactly similar, 
that we have cause to conclude that they both must 
proceed from the same source of Divine power and 
wisdom, however inconsistent with our reason they 
may appear. Reason is undoubtedly our surest guide 
in all matters which lie within the narrow circle of 
her intelligence. On the subject of revelation, her 
province is only to examine into its authority ; and 
when that is once proved, she has no more to do but 
to acquiesce in its doctrines ; and, therefore, is never 
so ill employed as when she pretends to accommodate 
them to her own ideas of rectitude and truth. " God," 


says this self-sufficient teacher, "is perfectly wise, 
just, and good ;" and what is the inference ? " That all 
his dispensations must be comformable to our notions 
of perfect wisdom, justice, and goodness." But it 
should first be proved that man is as perfect and as 
wise as his Creator, or this consequence will by no 
means follow ; but rather the reverse, that is, that the 
dispensations of a perfect and all-wise Being must 
probably appear unreasonable, and perhaps unjust, to 
a being imperfect and ignorant ; and, therefore, their 
seeming impossibility may be a mark of their truth, 
and, in some measure, justify that pious rant of a 
mad enthusiast, "Credo, quia impossibile." [I be- 
lieve, because impossible.] Nor is it the least surpris- 
ing that we are not able to understand the spiritual dis- 
pensations of the Almighty, when his material works 
are to us no less incomprehensible. Our reason can 
afford us no insight into those great properties of 
matter, gravitation, attraction, elasticity, and electrici- 
ty, nor even into the essence of matter itself. Can reason 
teach us how the sun's luminious orb can fill a circle, 
whose diameter contains many millions of miles, with 
a constant inundation of successive rays during thou- 
sands of years, without any perceivable diminution of 
that body from whence they are continually poured, 
or any augmentation of those bodies on which they 
fall, and by which they are constantly absorbed ? Can 
reason tell us how those rays, darted with a velocity 
greater than that of a cannon ball, can strike the 
tenderest organs of the human frame without inflicting 
any degree of pain, or by what means this percussion 
only can convey the forms of distant objects to an 
immaterial mind ? or how any union can be formed 


between material and immaterial essences ? or how 
the wounds of the body can give pain to the soul ; or 
the anxiety of the soul can emaciate and destroy the 
body ? That all these things are so, we have visible 
and indisputable demonstration ; but how can they be 
so, is to us as incomprehensible as the most abstruse 
mysteries of revelation can possibly be. In short, we 
see so small a part of the great whole ; we know so 
little of the relation which the present life bears to 
pre-existent an future slates ; we conceive so little of 
the nature of God, and his attributes, or mode of ex- 
istence ; we can comprehend so little of the material, 
and so much less of the moral plan on which the uni- 
verse is constituted, or on what principle it proceeds, 
that, if a revelation from such a Being, on such sub- 
jects, was in every part familiar to our understandings, 
and consonant to our reason, we should have great 
cause to suspect its Divine authority; and therefore, 
had this revelation been less incomprehensible, it 
would certainly have been more incredible. 

But I shall not enter farther into the consideration 
of these abstruse and difficult speculations, because 
the discussion of them would render this short essay 
too tedious and laborious a task for the perusal of 
them for whom it was principally intended ; which 
ure all those busy or idle persons, whose time and 
thoughts are wholly engrossed by the pursuits of bu- 
siness or pleasure, ambition or luxury ; who know 
nothing of this religion, except what they have ac- 
cidentally picked up by desultory conversation or su- 
perficial reading, and have thence determined wiih 
themselves, that a pretended revelation, founded on 
so strange and improbable a story, so contradictory to 


reason, so adverse to the world and all its occupa- 
ions, so incredible in its doctrines, and in its precepts 
so impracticable, can be nothing more than the im- 
position of priestcraft upon ignorant and illiterate 
ages, and artfully continued as an engine well adapted 
to awe and govern the superstitious vulgar. To ta.k 
to such about the Christian religion is to converse 
with the deaf concerning music, or with the blind on 
the beauties of painting. They want all ideas rela- 
tive to the subject, and, therefore, can never be made 
to comprehend it. To enable them to do this, their 
minds must be formed for these conceptions by con- 
templation, retirement, and abstraction from business 
and dissipation ; by ill-health, disappointments, and 
distresses ; and possibly by Divine interposition, or by 
enthusiasm, which is usually mistaken for it. With- 
out some of these preparatory aids, together with a 
competent degree of learning and application, it is 
impossible that they can think or know, understand or 
believe, any thing about it. If they profess to believe, 
they deceive others ; if they fancy that they believe 
they deceive themselves. I am ready to acknowledge, 
that these gentlemen, (though endued with good un- 
derstandings,) which have been entirely devoted to 
the business or amusements of the world, must be 
expected to pass no other judgment, and to revolt 
from the history and doctrines of this religion. " The 
preaching Christ crucified was to the Jews a stumb- 
ling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness," (1 Cor. 1: 
23 ;) and so it must appear to all who, like thejn, 
judge from established prejudices, false learning, 
and superficial knowledge ; for those who fail to 
follow the r^ain of its prophecy, to see the beauty 


and justness of its moral precepts, and to enter into 
the wonders of its dispensations, will probably form 
no other idea of this revelation but that of a confused 
rhapsody of fictions and absurdities. 

If it is asked, Was Christianity then intended only 
for learned divines and profound philosophers ? I an- 
swer, No. It was at first preached by the illiterate, 
and received by the ignorant ; and to such are the prac- 
tical, which are the most necessary parts of it, suffi- 
ciently intelligible ; but many proofs of its authority 
are drawn from other parts, of a speculative nature, 
opening to our inquiries inexhaustible discoveries con- 
cerning the nature, attributes, and dispensations of 
God, which cannot be understood without some learn- 
ing, and much attention. From these the generality 
of mankind must necessarily be excluded ; and must, 
therefore, in respect to them, trust to others for the 
grounds of their belief. And hence, perhaps, it is, that 
faith, or easiness of belief, is so frequently and so 
strongly recommended in the Gospel ; because, if men 
require proofs of which they themselves are incapable, 
and those who have no knowledge on this important 
subject will not place some confidence in those who 
have, the illiterate and unattentive must ever continue 
in a state of unbelief. But then all such should remem- 
ber, that in all sciences, even in the mathematics them- 
selves, there are many propositions which, on a cur- 
sory view, appear to the most acute understandings, 
uninstructed in that science, to be impossible to be true, 
which yet, on a closer examination, are found to be 
truths capable of the strictest demonstration; and 
that, therefore, in disquisitions on which we cannot 
determine without much learned investigation, reason. 


uninformed, is by no means to be depended on ; and 
from hence they ought surely to conclude that it may 
be at least as possible for them to be mistaken in dis 
believing this revelation, who know nothing of the 
matter, as for those great masters of reason ard eru- 
dition, Grotius, Bacon, Newton, Boyle, Locke, Addi- 
son, and Lytteiton, to be deceived in their belief; a 
belief to which they firmly adhered after the most di- 
ligent and learned researchers into the authenticity ot 
its records, the completion of the prophecies, the sub- 
limity of its doctrines, the purity of its precepts, and 
the arguments of its adversaries ; a belief which they 
have testified to the world by their writings, without 
any other motive than their regard for truth, and the 
benefit of mankind. Should the few foregoing pages 
add but one mite to the treasures with which these 
learned writers have enriched the world ; if they 
should be so fortunate as to persuade any of these mi- 
nute philosophers to place some confidence in these 
great opinions, and to distrust their own; if they 
should convince them that, notwithstanding all unfa- 
vorable appearances, Christianity may not be alto- 
gether artifice and error; if they should prevail on 
them to examine it with some attention ; or, if that is 
too much trouble, not to reject it without any examina- 
tion at all, the purpose of this little work will be suffi- 
ciently answered. Had the arguments herein used, 
and the new hints here flung out, been more largely 
discussed, it might easily have been extended to a more 
considerable bulk ; but then the busy would not have had 
leisure, nor the idle inclination to have read it. Should 
it ever have the honor to be admitted into such good 
company, they will immediately, I know, determine 


that it must be the work of some enthusiast or fanatic, 
some beggar, or some madman. I shall, therefore, b 
leave to assure them, that the author is very far removed 
from all these characters. That he once, perhaps, be- 
lieved as little as themselves, but having some leisure 
and more curiosity, he employed them both in resolv- 
ing a question which seemed to him of some impor- 
tance whether Christianity was really an imposture, 
founded on an absurd, incredible, and obsolete fable, 
as many suppose it or whether it is, what it pretends 
to be, a revelation communicated to mankind by the 
interposition of supernatural power. On a candid in- 
quiry, he soon found that the first was an ubsoiate im- 
possibility, and that its pretensions to the latter were 
founded on the most solid grounds. In the farther pur- 
suit of his examination, he perceived, at every step, 
new lights arising, and some of the brightest from 
parts of it the most obscure, but productive of the 
clearest proofs, because equally beyond the power ot 
human artifice to invent, and human reason to discover. 
These arguments, which have convinced him of the 
divine origin of this religion, he has here put together 
in as clear and concise a manner as he was able, think- 
ing they might have the same eftect upon others ; and 
being of opinion, that if there were a few more true 
Christians in the world, it would be beneficial to them- 
selves, and by no means detrimental to the public. 






Re-written and condensed in a more modern style 

It has been said of this brief and triumphant argument 
of Leslie, that it is " the standing reproach of Deism ;" no 
serious reply to it having been even attempted. 

DEAR SIR, You are desirous, you inform me, tore- 
cerve from me some one topic of reason, which shall 
demonstrate the truth of the Christian religion, and 
at the same time distinguish it from the impostures of 
Mahomet, and the heathen deities: that our Deists 
may be brought to this test, and be obliged either to 
renounce their reason and the common reason of man- 
kind, or to admit the clear proof, from reason, of the 
revelation of Christ ; which must be such a proof as 
no impostor can pretend to, otherwise it will not prove 
Christianity not to be an imposture. And you cannot 
but imagine, you add, that there must be such a proof, 
because every truth is in itself one : and therefore on* 
reason for it, if it be a true reason, must be sufficient 
and, if sufficient, better than many : because multipL 
city creates confusion, especially in weak judgments. 

Sir, you have imposed a hard task upon me : I wish 
I could perform it. For, though every truth be one, 
yet our sight is so feeble that we cannot always come 
to it directly, but by many inferences and laying of 
things together. But, I think, thai in the case before 
us, there is such a proof as you desire, and I will set 
it down as shortly and as plainly as I can. 

I suppose, then, that the truth of the Christian doc 
trines urill be sufficiently evinced, if the matters of 


fact recorded of Christ in the Gospels are proved to be 
true ; for his miracles, if true, establish the truth of 
what he delivered. The same may be said with re- 
gard to Moses. If he led the children of Israel through 
the Red Sea, and did such other wonderful things as 
are recorded of him in the book of Exodus, it must ne- 
cessarily follow that he was sent by God: these be- 
ing the strongest evidences we can require, and which 
every Deist will confess he would admit, if he him- 
self had witnessed their performance. So that the 
stress of this cause will depend upon the proof of 
these matters of fact. 

With a view, therefore, to this proof, I shall pro- 

I. To lay down such marks, as to the truth of mat- 
ters of fact in general, that, where they all meet, such 
matters of fact cannot be false : and, 

II. To show that they all do meet in the matters of 
fact of Moses and of Christ; and do not meet in those 
reported of Mahomet and of the heathen deities, nor 
can possibly meet in any imposture whatsoever: 

I. The marks are these : 

1. That the fact be such as men's outward senses 
can judge of: 

2. That it be performed publicly, in the presence of 
witnesses : 

3. That there be public monuments and actions 
kept up in memory of it; and, 

? 4. That such monuments and actions shall be es- 
tablished, and commence, at the time of the fact. 

The two first of these marks make it impossible for 
any false fact to be imposed upon men at the time 
when it was said to be done, because every man's 


senses would contradict it. For example : Suppose I 
should pretend that yesterday I divided the Thames 
in the presence of all the people of London, and led 
the whole city over to South wark on dry land, the wa- 
ters standing like walls on each side : it would be 
morally impossible for me to convince the people of 
London that this was true ; when every man, woman, 
and child, could contradict me, and affirm that they 
had not seen the Thames so divided, nor been led over 
to Southwark on dry land. I take it then for granted, 
(and I apprehend with the allowance of all the Deists 
in the world,) that no such imposition could be put 
upon mankind at the time when such matter of fact 
was said to be done. 

" But," it may be urged, " the fact might be invent- 
ed when the men of that generation in which it was 
said to be done were all past and gone ; and the cre- 
dulity of after ages might be induced to believe that 
things had been performed in earlier times, which 
had not !" 

From this 'the two latter marks secure us, as much 
as the two first in the former case. For whenever such 
a fact was invented, if it were stated that not only 
public monuments of it remained, but likewise that 
public actions or observances had been kept up in me- 
mory of it ever since, the deceit must be detected by 
no such monuments appearing, and by the experience 
of e^ery man, woman, and child, who must know that 
they had performed no such actions and practiced no 
such observances. For example : Suppose I should 
now fabricate a story of something done a thousand 
years ago ; I might perhaps get a few persons to be- 
lieve me ; but if I were farther to add, that from that 


day to this, every man, at the age of twelve years, had 
a joint of his little finger cut off in memory of it, and 
that of course every man then living actually wanted 
a joint of that finger, and vouched this institution in 
confirmation of its truth : it would be morally impos- 
sible for me to gain credit in such a case, because every 
man then living would contradict me, as to the cir- 
cumstance of cutting off a joint of the finger ; and that, 
being an essential part of my original matter of fact, 
must prove the whole to be false. 

II. Let us now come to the second point, and show 
that all these marks do meet in the matters of fact of 
Moses, and of Christ ; and do not meet in those re- 
ported of Mahomet, and of the heathen deities, nor 
can possibly meet in any imposture whatsoever. 

As to Moses, he, I take it for granted, could not 
have persuaded six hundred thousand men that he 
had brought them out of Egypt by the Red Sea, fed 
them forty years with miraculous manna, &c. if it had 
not been true : because the senses of every man who 
was then alive would have contradicted him. So that 
here are the two first marks. 

For the same reason, it would have been equally 
impossible for him to have made them receive his 
five books as true, which related all these things as 
done before their eyes, if they had not been so done. 
Observe how positively he speaks to them. " And 
know you this day, for I speak not with your children, 
which have not known, and which have not seen the 
chastisement of the Lord your God, his greatness, his 
mighty hand, and his stretched-out arm. and his mira- 
clesbut your eyes have seen all the great acts of the 
Lord which he did." Deut. 11 : 2-7. Hence we must 


admit it to be impossible that these books, if written 
by Moses in support of an imposture, could have been 
put upon the people who were alive at the time when 
such things were said to be done. 

" But they might have been written," it may be 
urged, " in some age after Moses, and published 
as his !" 

To this I reply, that, if it were so, it was impossible 
they should have been received as such ; because they 
speak of themselves as delivered by Moses, and kept 
in the ark from his time ; (Deut. 31 : 24-26,) and state 
that a copy of them was likewise deposited in the 
hands of the king, " that he might learn to fear the 
Lord his God, to keep all the words of this law and 
hese statutes, to cfo them." Deut. 17 : 19. Here these 
books expressly represent themselves as being not 
only the civil history, but also the established munici- 
pal law of the Jews, binding the king as well as the 
people. In whatever age, therefore, after Moses, they 
might have been forged, it was impossible they should 
have gained any credit ; because they could not then 
have been found either in the ark, or with the king, or 
any where else : and, when they were first published, 
every body must know that they had never heard of 
them before. 

And they could still less receive them as their book 
of statutes, and the standing law of the land, by which 
they had all along been governed. Could any man, at 
this day, invent a set of acts of parliament for Eng- 
land, and make it pass upon the nation as the only 
book of statutes which they had ever known ? As im- 
possible was it for these books, if written in any age 
after Moses, to have been received for what they de- 


clare themselves to be ; that is, the municipal law of 
the Jews ; and for any man to have persuaded that 
people that they had owned them as their code of sta- 
tutes from the time of Moses, that is, before they had 
ever heard of them ! Nay, more : they must instantly 
have forgotten their former laws, if they could receive 
these books as such ; and as such only could they re- 
ceive them, because such they vouched themselves to 
be. Let me ask the Deists but one short question : 
" Was a book of sham laws ever palmed upon any 
nation since the world began ?" If not, with what face 
can they say this of the law books of the Jews ? Why 
will they affirm that of them, which they admit never 
to have happened in any other instance ? 

But they must be still more unreasonable. For the 
books of Moses have an ampler demonstration of their 
truth than even other law books have; as they not 
only contain the laws themselves, but give an histori- 
cal account of their institution and regular fulfillment : 
of the passover, for instance, in memory of their su- 
pernatural protection upon the slaying of the first- 
born of Egypt ; the dedication of the first-born of Israel, 
both of man and beast ; the preservation of Aaron's 
Rod which budded, of the pot of Manna, and of the 
Brazen Serpent, which remained till the days of He- 
zekiah. 2 Kings, 18 : 4, &c. And, besides these me- 
morials of particular occurrences, there were other 
solemn observances, in general memory of their deli- 
verance out of Egypt, &c. as their annual expiations, 
their new moons, their Sabbaths, and their ordinary 
sacrifices ; so that there were yearly, monthly, weekly, 
and daily recognitions of these things. The same 
books likewise farther inform us, that the tribe of Levi 


were appointed and consecrated by God as his minis- 
ters', by whom alone these institutions were to be cele- 
brated; that it was death for any others to approach 
the altar; that their high-priest wore a brilliant mitie 
and magnificent robes, with the miraculous Urim and 
Thummim in his breast-plate ; that at his word all the 
people were to go out, and to come in ; that these Le- 
mtes were also their judges, even in all civil causes, 
and that it was death to resist their sentence. Deut. 
17 : 8-13 ; 1 Chron. 23 : 4. 

Hence, too, in whatever age after Moses they might 
have been forged, it was impossible they should have 
gained any credit : unless indeed the fabricators could 
have made the whole nation believe, in spite of their 
invariable experience to the contrary, that they had 
received these books long before, from their fathers ; 
had been taught them when they were children, and 
had taught them to their own children ; that they had 
been circumcised themselves, had circumcised their 
families, and uniformly observed their whole minute 
detail of sacrifices and ceremonies ; that they had never 
eaten any swine's flesh or other prohibited meats ; that 
they had a splendid tabernacle, with a regular priest- 
hood to administer in it, confined to one particular 
tribe, and a superintendent high-priest, whose death 
alone could deliver those that had fled to the cities of 
refuge ; that these priests were their ordinary judges, 
even in civil matters, &c. But this would surely have 
been impossible, if none of these things had been prac- 
ticed ; and it would consequently have been impossible 
to circulate, as true, a set of books which affirmed that 
they had practiced them, and upon that practice rested 
their own pretensions to acceptance. So that here are 
the two latter marks. 


" But," to advance to the utmost degree of supposi- 
tion, it may be urged, '" these things might have been 
practiced prior to this alledged forgery ; and those 
books only deceived the nation, by making them be- 
lieve that they were practiced in memory of such and 
such occurrences as were then invented !" 

In this hypothesis, however groundless, the same 
impossibilities press upon our notice as before. For it 
implies that the Jews had previously kept these obser- 
vances in memory of nothing, or without knowing why 
they kept them ; whereas, in all their particulars, they 
strikingly express their original: as the Passover, in- 
stituted in memory of God's passing over the chil 
dr-en of the Israelites, when he slew the first-born 
Egypt, &c. 

Let us admit, however contrary both to probability 
and to matter of fact, that they did not know why they 
kept these observances ; yet, was it possible to per- 
suade them that they were kept in memory of some- 
thing which they had never heard of before ? .For ex- 
ample : Suppose I should now forge some romantic 
story of strange things done a long while ago ; and, in 
confirmation of this, should endeavor to convince the 
Christian world that they had regularly, from that pe- 
riod to this, kept holy the first day of the week, in me- 
mory of such or such a man : a Caesar, or a Mahomed : , 
and had all been baptized in his name, and sworn by i 
it upon the very book which I had then fabricated, 
and which of course they had never seen before in 
their public courts of judicature; that this book like-J 
wise contained their laws, civil and ecclesiastical, 
which they had ever since his time acknowledged, and) 
no other : I ask any Deist, whether he thinks it i 

83] . WITH THE DEISTS. 11 

sible that such a cheat could be received as the Gospel 
of Christians, or not? The same reason holds witn 
regard to the books of Moses, and must hold with 
regard to every book which contains matters of fact 
accompanied by the abovementioned four marks. For 
these marks, together, secure mankind from imposi- 
tion, with regard to any false fact, as well in after 
ages, as a* the time when it was said to be done. 

Let me produce, as another and a familiar illustra- 
tion, the Stonehenge of Salisbury Plain. Almost 
every body has seen or heard of it ; and yet nobody 
knows by whom, or in memory of what, it was set up. 

Now, suppose I should write a book to-morrow, and 
state in it that these huge stones were erected by a 
Caesar or a Mahomed, in memory of such and such of 
their actions ; and should farther add, that this book 
was written at the time when those actions were per- 
formed, and by the doers themselves, or by eye wit- 
nesses ; and had ueen constantly received as true, and 
quoted by authors of the greatest credit in regular suc- 
cession ever since ; that it was well known in England, 
and even enjoined by Act of Parliament to be taught 
our children ; and that we accordingly did teach it our 
children, and had been taught it ourselves when we 
Were children ; would this, I demand of any Deist, 
pass current in England 1 Or, rather, should not I, or 
any other person who might insist upon its reception, 
instead of being believed, be considered insane ? 

Let us compare, then, this rude structure with the 
Stonehenge, as I may call it, or " twelve stones " set up 
at Gilgal. Joshua, 4 : 6. It is there said that the rea- 
son why they were set up was, that when the children 
oi the Jews, in after-ages, should ask their meaning, 


it should be told them. Ch. 4 : 2022. And the thing, 
in memory of which they were set up, the passage 
over Jordan, was such as could not possibly have been 
imposed upon that people at the time when it was 
said to be done : it was not less miraculous, and from 
the previous notice, preparations, and other striking 
circumstances of its performance, (3 : 5, 15,) still 
more unassailable by the petty cavils of infidel so- 
phistry, than their passage through the Red Sea. 

Now, to form our argument, let us suppose that there 
never was any such thing as that passage over Jor- 
dan ; that these stones at Gilgal had been set up on 
some unknown occasion ; and that some designing 
man, in an after-age, invented this book of Joshua, af- 
firmed that it was written at the time of that imaginary 
event by Joshua himself, and adduced this pile of 
stones as a testimony of its truth ; would not every 
body say to him, " We know this pile very well, but 
we never before heard of this reason for it, nor of this 
book of Joshua. Where has it lain concealed all this 
while ? And where and how came you, after so long 
a period, to find it ? Besides, it informs us that this 
passage over Jordan was solemnly directed to be taught 
our children from age to age ; and, to that end, that 
they were always to be instructed in the meaning of 
this particular monument : but we were never taught 
it ourselves, when we were children, nor did we ever 
teach it to our children. And it is in the highest de- 
gree improbable that such an emphatic ordinance 
should have been forgotten during the continuance of 
so remarkable a pile of stones, set up expressly for the 
purpose of preserving its remembrance." 

If, then, for these reasons, no such fabrication could 


be put upon us> as to the stones in Salisbury Plain^ 
how much less could it succeed as to the stonage at 
Gilgal ? If, where we are ignorant of the true origin 
of a mere naked monument, such a sham origin can- 
not be imposed, how much less practicable would it be 
to impose upon us in actions and observances which 
we celebrate in memory of what we actually know ; 
to make us forget what we have regularly commemo- 
rated ; and to persuade us that we have constantly 
kept such and such institutions, with reference to 
something which we never heard of before ; that is, 
that we knew something before we knew it ! And, il 
we find it thus impossible to practice deceit, even in 
cases which have not the above four marks, how 
much more impossible must it be that any deceit 
should be practiced in cases in which all these four 
marks meet ? 

In the matters of fact of Christ likewise, as well as 
in those of Moses, these four marks are to be found. 
The reasoning, indeed, which has been already advanc- 
ed with resspect to the Old Testament, is generally 
applicable to the New. The miracles of Christ, like 
those of Moses, were such as men's outward senses 
could judge of; and were performed publicly, in the 
presence of those to whom the history of them, con- 
tained in the Gospel, was addressed. And it is relat- 
ed, that " about three thousand" at one time, (Acts, 
2 : 41,) and about " five thousand" at another, (4 : 4,) 
were converted in consequence of what they them- 
selves saw and heard, in matters where it was impos- 
sible that they should have been deceived. Here, there- 
fore, were the two first marks. 

And, with regard to the two latter, Baptism and the 
' 8 


Lord's Supper were instituted as memorials of certain 
things, not in after ages, but at the time when these 
things were said to be done ; and have been strictly ob- 
served, from that time to this, without interruption. 
Christ himself also ordained Apostles, &c. to preach 
and administer his ordinances, and to govern his 
church " even unto the end of the world." Now, the 
Christian ministry is as notorious a matter of fact 
among us as the setting apart of the tribe of Levi was 
among the Jews ; and as the era and object of their 
appointment are part of the C-ospel-narrative, if that 
narrative had been a fiction of some subsequent age, 
at the time of its fabrication no such order of men 
could have been found, which vould have effectually 
given the lie to the whole story. And the truth of the 
matters of fact of Christ, being no otherwise asserted 
than as there were at the time (whenever the Deisl 
will suppose the Gospel to have been fabricated) pub- 
lic ordinances, and a public ministry of his institution 
to dispense them, and it being impossible, upon this 
hypothesis, that there could be any such things then 
in existence, we must admit it to be equally impossi- 
ble that the forgery should have been successful. 
Hence, it was as impossible to deceive mankind, in 
respect to these matters of fact, by inventing them in 
after ages, as at the time when they were said to be 

The matters of fact reported of Mahomed and of 
the heathen deities, do all want some of these four 
marks by which the certainty of facts is established. 
Mahomed himself, as he tells us in his Koran, (6, &c.) 
pretended to no miracles ; and those which are com- 
monly related of him pass, even among his followers, 


for ridiculous legends, and as such are rejected by 
heir scholars and philosophers. They have not ei- 
ther of the two first marks ; for his converse with the 
moon, his night-journey from Mecca to Jerusalem, and 
thence to heaven, &c. were not performed before any 
witnesses, nor was the tour indeed of a nature to ad- 
mit human attestation : and to the two latter they do 
not even affect to advance any claim. 

The same may be affirmed, with little variation, 
of the stories of the heathen deities : of Mercury's 
stealing sheep, Jupiter's transforming himself into a 
hull, &c. besides the absurdiry of such degrading and 
profligate adventures. And, accordingly we find that 
the more enlightened Pagans themselves considered 
them as fables involving a mystical meaning, of which 
several of their writers have endeavored to give us 
the explication. It is true, these gods had their priests, 
their feasts, their games, and other public ceremonies ; 
but all these want the fourth mark, of commencing at 
the time when the things which they commemorate 
were said to have been done. Hence they cannot se- 
cure mankind, in subsequent ages, from imposture, ?s 
they furnish no internal means of detection, at the 
period of the forgery. The Bacchanalia, for exam- 
ple, and other heathen festivals, were established long 
after the events to which they refer ; and the priests of 
Juno, Mar?, &c. were not ordained by those imagi- 
nary deities, but appointed by others in some after 
as 7,, and are therefore no evidence to the truth of their 
preternatural achievements. 

To apply what has been said : 

We may challenge all the Deists in the world to 


show any fabulous action accompanied by these four 
marks. The thing is impossible. The histories of 
the Old and New Testament never could have been 
received, if they had not been true ; because the priest- 
hoods of Levi and of Christ, the observance of the 
Sabbath, the Passover and Circumcision, and the ordi- 
nances of Baptism and the Lord's Supper, &c. are 
there represented as descending uninterruptedly from 
the times of their respective institution. And it would 
have been as impossible to persuade men in after ages 
that they had been circumcised or baptized, and cele- 
brated Passovers, Sabbaths, and other ordinances, un- 
der the ministration of a certain order of priests, if they 
had done none of those things, as to make them be- 
lieve at the time, without any real foundation, that 
they had gone through seas on dry land, seen the 
dead raised, &c. But, without such a persuasion, i* 
was impossible that either the Law or the Gospel could* 
have been received. And the truth of the matters of 
fact of each being no otherwise asserted than as such 
public ceremonies had been previously practiced, their 
certainty is established upon the FULL CONVICTION OP 


I do not say that every thing which wants these 
four marks is false ; but that every thing which has 
them all, must be true. 

I can have no doubt that there was such a man as I 
Julius Caesar, that he conquered at Pharsalia, and wag! 
killed in the Senate-house, though neither his actions 
nor his assassination be commemorated by any publia 
observances. But this shows that the matters of fact 
of Moses and of Christ have come down to us 
better certified than any other whatsoever. And yel 


our Deists, who would consider any one as hopelessly 
irrational that should offer to deny the existence of 
Caesar, value themselves as the only men of profound 
sense and judgment, for ridiculing the histories of 
Moses and of Christ, though guarded by infallible 
marks, which that of Caesar wants. 

Besides, the nature of the subject would of itself 
lead to a more minute examination of the one than of 
the other : for of what consequence is it to me, or to 
the world, whether there ever was such a man as Cae- 
sar, whether he conquered at Pharsalia, and was kill- 
ed in the Senate-house, or not ? But our eternal wel- 
fare is concerned in the truth of what is recorded in 
the Scriptures ; whence they would naturally be more 
narrowly scrutinized, when proposed for acceptance. 

How unreasonable, then, is it to reject matters of 
fact so important, so sifted, and so attested ; and yet 
to think it absurd, even to madness, to deny other 
matters of fact which have not the thousandth part 
of their evidence have had comparatively little in- 
vestigation and are of no consequence at all ! ' 

To the preceding four marks, which are co, 
to the matters of fact of Moses and of Christ, I sub- 
join four additional marks ; the three last of which, 
no matter of fact, how true soever, either has had, or 
can have, except that of Christ. 

This will obviously appear, if it be considered, 

** TUat the book which relates the facts, contains 


likewise the laws of the people to whom it belongs 

6. That Christ was previously announced, for that 
Yery period, by a long train of prophecies ; and, 

7. Still more peculiarly prefigured by types, both 
of a circumstantial and personal nature, from the ear- 
liest ages ; and, 

8. That the facts of Christianity are such as to 
make it impossible for either their relaters or hearers 
to believe them, if false, without supposing a univer- 
sal deception of the senses of mankind. 

Theffth mark, which has been subordinately dis- 
cussed above, in such a manner as to supersede the 
necessity of dwelling upon it here, renders it impossi- 
ble for any one to have imposed such a book upon any 
people. For example : Suppose I should forge a code 
of laws for Great Britain, and publish it next term ; 
could I hope to persuade the judges, lawyers, and peo- 
ple, that this was their genuine statute-book, by which 
all their causes had been determined in the public 
courts for so many centuries past ! Before they could 
be brought to this, they must totally forget their esta- 
blished laws, which they had so laboriously commit- 
ted to memory, and so familiarly quoted in every day's 
practice ; and believe that this hew book, which they 
had never seen before, was that old book which had 
been pleaded so long in Westminster-Hall, which has 
been so often printed, and of which the originals are 
now so carefully preserved in the Tower. 

This applies strongly to the books of Moses, in 
which, not only the history of the Jews, but likewise 
their whole law, secular and ecclesiastical, was con- 
tained. And though, from the early extension and 
destined universality of the Christian system, it could 


not, without unnecessary confusion, furnish a uniform 
civil code to all its various followers, who were alrea- 
dy under the government of laws in some degree 
adapted to their respective climates and characters, 
yet was it intended as the spiritual guide of the new 
church. And in this respect, this mark is still strong- 
er with regard to the Gospel than even to the books 
of Moses ; inasmuch as it is easier (however hard) to 
imagine the substitution of an entire statute-book in 
one particular nation, than that all the nations of 
Christendom should have unanimously conspired in 
the forgery. But, without such a conspiracy, such a 
forgery could never have succeeded, as the Gospel 
universally formed a regular part of their daily public 

But I hasten to the sixth mark, namely, Pro- 

The great fact of Christ's coming was previously 
announced to the. Jews, in the Old Testament, " by 
all the holy Prophets which have been since the 
world began." Luke, 1 : 70. 

The first promise upon the subject was made to 
Adam, immediately after the fall. Gen. 3:15. Com- 
pare Col. 2 : 15, and Hebrews, 2 : 14. 

He was again repeatedly promised to Abraham, 
(Gen. 12: 3. 18: 18, and 22: 18, Gal. 3: 16,) to Issac, 
(Gen. 26 : 4,) and to Jacob, Gen. 28 : 14. 

Jacob expressly prophesied of him, under the appel- 
lation of " Shiloh," or Him that was to be sent. Gen. 
49: 10. Balaam also, with the voice of inspiration, 
prpnounced him "the Star of Jacob, and the Sceptre 
of Israel." Numb. 24 : 17. Moses spake of him as 
One "greater than himself." Deut. 18 : 15, 18, 19; 


Acts, 3: 22. And Daniei hailed his arrival, under 
;}ie name of " Messiah the Prince." Chap. 9 : 25. 

It was foretold that he should be born of a virgin, 
(Isa. 7: 14,) in the city of Bethlehem, (Micah, 5: 2,) 
of the seed of Jesse; (Isa. 11: 1, 10;) that he should 
lead a life of poverty and suffering, (Psalm, 22,) in- 
flicted upon him, "not for himself," (Dan. 9: 26,) but 
for the sins of others ; (Isa. 53 ;) and, after a short con- 
finement in the grave, should rise again; (Psalm, 16: 
10. Acts, 2: 27, 31, and 13: 3537 ;) that he "should 
sit upon the throne of David for ever," and be called 
" the mighty God," (Isa. 9 : 6, 7,) " the Lord our Righ- 
teousness ;" (Jer. 33 : 16 ;) " Immanuel, that is, God 
with us ;" (Isa. 7 : 14 ; Matt. 1 : 23 ;) and by David him- 
self whose son he was according to the flesh, " Lord." 
*?salm, 110: 1, applied to Christ by himself, Matt. 
22 : 44, and by Peter, Acts, 2 : 34. 

The time of his incarnation was to be, before "the 
Sceptre should depart from Judah," (Gen. 49: 10,) 
during the continuance of the second Temple, (Hag. 
2: 7, 9,) and within seventy weeks, or 490 days, that 
is, according to the constant interpretation of pro- 
phecy, 490 years from its erection, Dan. 9 : 24. 

From these, and many other predictions, the com- 
ing of Christ was at all times the general expectation 
of the Jews ; and fully matured at the time of his ac- 
tual advent, as may be inferred from the number of 
false Messiahs who appeared about that period. 

That he was likewise the expectation of the Gen- 
tiles, (in conformity to the prophecies of Gen. 49 : 10, 
and Hag. 2 : 7, where the terms " People," and " Na- 
tions " denote the Heathen world,) is evinced by the 
coming of the wise men from the East. &c. a story 


which would of course have been contradicted by 
some of the individuals so disgracefully concerned in 
it, if the fact of their arrival, and the consequent mas- 
sacre of the infants in and about Bethlehem, had not 
been fresh in every one's memory : by them, for in- 
stance, who afterward suborned false witnesses against 
Christ, and gave large money to the soldiers to con- 
ceal, if possible, the event of his resurrection; or them 
who, in still later days, every where zealously " spake 
against" the tenets and practices of his rising church. 

All over the East, indeed, there was a general 
tradition, that about that time a king of the JEWS 
'would be born, who should govern the whole earth. 
This prevailed so strongly at Rome, a few months be- 
fore the birth of Augustus, that the Senate made a 
decree to expose all the children born that year ; but 
the execution of it was eluded by a trick of some 
of the senators, who, from the pregnancy of their 
wives, were led to hope that they might be the fa- 
thers of the promised Prince. ^Its currency is also 
recorded with a remarkable identity of phrase by the 
pens of Suetonius and Tacitus. Now, that in this 
there was no collusion between the Chaldeans, Ro- 
mans, and Jews, is sufficiently proved by the despe- 
rate methods suggested, or carried into effect, for its 
discomfiture. Nor, in fact, is it practicable for whole 
nations of contemporary (and still less, if possible, 
for those of successive) generations to concert a 
story perfectly harmonious in all its minute ac- 
companiments of time, place, manner, and other cir- 

In addition to the above general predictions of the 
coming, life, death, and resurrection of Christ, there 


are others which foretell still more strikingly several 
particular incidents of the Gospel narrative ; instances 
unparalleled in the whole range of history, and which 
could have been foreseen hy God alone. They were 
certainly not foreseen by the human agents concerned 
in their execution, or they would never have contri- 
buted to the fulfillment of prophecies referred even by 
themselves to the Messiah, and therefore verifying the 
divine mission of Him whom they crucified as an im- 

Observe, then, how literally many of these predic- 
tions were fulfilled. For example : read Psalm 69 : 
21, u They gave me gall to eat, and vinegar to drink ;" 
and compare Matt. 27 : 34, " They gave him vine- 
gar to drink, mingled with gall" Again, it is said, 
Psalm 22 : 16-18, " They pierced my hands and my 
feet. They part my garments among them, and cast 
lots upon my vesture ;"* as if it had been written after 

* The soldiers did not tear his coat, because it was without 
seam, woven from the top throughout; and therefore they cast 
lots for it. But this was to human view entirely accidental. 
With the passage in the Psalms, as Romans, they were not 
likely to be acquainted. The same remark applies to the next 
instance, from Zechariah. 

And here it may be suggested, (in reply to those who insi- 
diously magnify " the power of chance, the ingenuity of ac- 
commodation, and the industry of research," as chiefly sup- 
porting the credit of obscure prophecy,) that greater plainness 
would have enabled wicked men, as free agents, to prevent its 
"'accomplishment, when obviously directed against themselves. 
The Jews, not understanding what Christ meant by his " lift- 
ing up," (John, 8 : 28 ; 12 : 33, 33,) and not knowing that he had 
foretold his crucifixion to his apostles, (Matt. 20 : 19,) instead 
of finally stoning him the death appointed by their law (Levit. 
24 : 16) for blasphemy, (Matt. 26 : 65,) more than once me- 


John, 19 : 23, 24: It is predicted, likewise, Zech. 12 : 
10, " They shall look upon me whom they have 
pierced ;" and we are told, John, 19 : 34, that " one 
of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side" 

Compare also Psalm 22 : 7, 8, " All they that see 
me laugh me to scorn : they shoot out their lips and 
shake their heads, saying, He trusted in God that he 
would deliver him ; let him deliver him if he will have 
him," with Matt. 27 : 39, 41, 43, "And they that 
passed by reviled him, wagging their heads, and 
ing) Come down from the cross. Likewise also 
he chief priests, mocking him, with the scribes and 
Iders, said, He trusted in God : let him deliver him 
now, if he will have him ; for he said, I am the Son 
of God" His very price, and the mode of laying out 
he money, previously specified, (Zech. 11 : 13,) are 
listorically stated by Matthew, in perfect correspon- 
[ence with the prophet ; chap. 27 : 6, 7. And his rid- 
ng into Jerusalem upon an ass, predicted, Zech. 9 : 9, 
and referred by one of the most learned of the Jewish 
labbies to the Messiah,) is recorded by the same in- 
spired historian, chap. 21 : 5. Lastly, it was foretold, 
hat " he should make his grave with the wicked, and 

naced against the Savior, (John, 8 : 59; 10 : 23,) and actually 
nflicted upon Stephen (Acts, 7 : 58,) for that offence uncon- 
ciously delivered him to the predicted Roman cross. Again 
he piercing of his side was no part of the Roman sentence, but 
merely to ascertain his being dead previously to taking him 
down from the cross ; tf that the body might not remain there 
>n the Sabbath day," which commenced that evening a few 
hours after the crucifixion. From his early giving up the ghost, 
however, it was not necessary that " a bone of him should be 
roken," (Exod. 12 : 46; Numb. 9 : 12; Psalm 34 : 20,) like 
those of the two thieves, his fellow-sufferers. John, 19 : 32-3G. 


with the rich in his death;" (Isa. 53 : 9;) or, as Dr. 
Lowth translates the passage, " his grave was ap- 
pointed with the wicked, but with the rich man was 
his tomb ;" which prediction was precisely verified by 
the very improbable incidents of his being crucified 
between two thieves, (Matt. 27 : 38,) and afterwards 
laid in the tomb of the rich man of- Arhnathea. Ib. 
57, 60. 

Thus do the prophecies of the Old Testament, with- 
out variation or ambiguity, refer to the person and cha- 
racter of Christ. His own predictions in the New, de- 
mand a few brief observations. 

Those relating to the destruction of Jerusalem, 
which specified that it should be " laid even with the 
ground," and " not .one stone be left upon another," 
(Luke, 9 : 44,) " before that generation passed," (Matt. 
24 : 34,) were fulfilled in a most surprisingly literal 
manner, the very foundations of the temple being 
ploughed up by Turnus Rufus. In another remarkable 
prophecy he announced the many false Messiahs that 
should come after him, and the ruin in which their 
followers should be involved. Matt. 24 : 24-26. That 
great numbers actually assumed that holy character 
before the final fall of the city, and led the people into 
the wilderness to their destruction, we learn from 
Josephus. Antiq. Jud. 18 : 12 ; 20 : 6 ; and B. J. 8 : 
31. Nay, such was their wretched infatuation, that 
under this delusion they rejected the offers of Titus, 
who courted them to peace. Id. B. J. 7 : 12. 

It will be sufficient barely to mention his foretelling I 
the dispersion of that unhappy nation, and the triumph j 
of his Gospel over the gates of hell, under every pos- j 
sible disadvantage himself low and despised, his im- 


mediate associates only twelve, and those illiterate and 
unpolished ; and his adversaries the allied powers, pre- 
judices, habits, interests, and appetites of mankind. 

But the seventh mark is still more peculiar, if pos- 
sible, to Christ, than even that of Prophecy. For 
whatever may be weakly pretended with regard to the 
oracular predictions of Delphi or Dodona, the hea- 
thens never affected to prefigure any future event by 
types, or resemblances of the fact, consisting of ana- 
logies either in individuals, or in sensible institutions 
directed to be continued, till the antitype itself should 
make its appearance. 

These types, in the instance of Christ, were of a 
two-fold nature, circumstantial and personal. 

Of the former kind (not to notice the general rite of 
sacrifice) may be produced as examples : 

1. The Passover, appointed in memory of that great 
night when the Destroying Angel, who slew all " the 
iirst-born of Egypt," passed over those houses upon 
whose door-posts the blood of the Paschal Lamb was 
sprinkled ; and directed to be eaten with what the 
Apostle (1 Cor. 5 : 7, 8) calls "the unleavened bread 
of sincerity and truth." 

2. The annual expiation, in two respects : first, as 
the High Priest entered into the Holy of Holies (re- 
presenting heaven, Exod. 25 : 40; Heb. 9 : 24) with 
the blood of the sacrifice, whose body was burnt with- 
out the camp, " wherefore Jesus also, that he might 
sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered with- 
out the gate;" (Heb. 13 : 12;) and "after he had of- 
fered one sacrifice for sin, for ever sat down at the right 
hand of God ;" (10 : 12 ;) and secondly, as "all the 

20 LESLit S METHOD [98 

iniquity of the children of Israel was put upon the 
head" of the Scape Goat. Lev. 16 : 21. 

3. The brazen serpent, by looking up to which the 
people were cured of the stings of the fiery serpents ; 
and whose "lifting up" was, by Christ himself, .'n- 
terpreted as emblematical of his being lifted up on tie 
cross. John 3 : 14. 

4. The manna, which represented " the bread of 
life that came down from heaven." John, 6 : 31 35. 

5. The rock, whence the waters flowed, to supply 
drink in the wilderness ; " and that rock was Christ " 
I Cor. 10 : 4. 

6. The Sabbath, "a shadow of Christ ," (Col. 2 : 
16, 17 ;) and, as a figure of his eternal rest, denomi- 
nated "a sign of the perpetual covenant." Exod. 31. 
16, 17. Ezek. 20 : 12, 20. And, lastly, to omit others, 

The temple, where alone the shadowy sacrifices 
were to be offered, because Christ, " the body," was 
to be offered there himself. 

Of personal types, likewise, I shall confine myself 
to such as are so considered in the New Testament. 

1. Adam, between whom and Christ a striking se- 
lies of relations is remarked. Rom. 5: 1221, and 
1 Cor. 15 : 4549 

2. Noah, who was " saved by water ; the like figure 
^hereunto, even baptism, doth now save us, by the re- 
surrection of Jesus Christ." 1 Peter, 3 : 20, 21. 

3. Melchisedcc, king of Salem, who was made " like 
unto the Son of God, a priest continually." Heb. 
7 ^> 

4. Abraham, " the heir of the world," (Rom. 4 : 13,) 
" in whom all the nations of the earth are blest. 11 
Gen. 18 : 18. 


5. Isaac, in his birth and intended sacrifice, whence 
also his father received him in a figure, (Heb. 11 : 19,) 
that is, of the resurrection of Christ. He too was the 
promised seed (Gen. 21: 12, and Gal. 3 : 16) in whom 
all the nations of the earth were to be blessed. Gen. 
22 : 18. 

6. Jacob, in his vision of the ladder, (Gen. 28 : 12, 
and John, 1 : 51,) and his wrestling with the angel ; 
whence he, and after him the church, obtained the 
name of Israel. Gen. 32 : 28, and Matt. 11 : 21. The 
Gentile world also, like Jacob, gained the blessing and 
heirship from their elder brethren, the Jews. 

7. Moses, (Deut. 18 : 18, and John, 1 : 45,) in re- 
deeming the children of Israel out of Egypt. 

8. Joshua, called also Jesus, (Heb. 4 : 8,) in acquir- 
ing for them the possession of the Holy Land, and as 
Lieutenant to the " Captain of the host of the Lord." 
Josh. 5 : 14. 

9. David, (Psalm 16 : 10, and Acts, 2 : 2535,) 
upon whose throne Christ is said to sit, (Isai. 9:7,) 
and by whose name he is frequently designated (Hos. 
3 : 5, &c.) in his pastoral, regal, and prophetical 

10. Jonah, in his dark imprisonment of three days, 
applied by Christ to himself. Matt. 12 : 40. 

The eighth mark is, that the facts of Christianity 
are such as to make it impossible for either the relaters 
or the hearers to believe them, if false, without sup- 
posing a universal deception of the senses of man- 

For they were related by the doers, or by eye- 
witnesses, to those who themselves likewise either 
were, or might have been present, and undoubtedly 


knew many that were present at their performance. 
To this circumstance, indeed, both Christ and his 
apostles often appeal. And they were of such a 
nature as wholly to exclude every chance of im- 
position. What juggler could have given sight to 
him " that was born blind," have fed five thousand 
hungry guests with " five loaves and two fishes ;" or 
have raised one, who had been " four days buried," 
from his grave. 

When, then, we add to this, that none of the Jewish 
or Roman persecutors of Christianity, to whom its 
first teachers frequently referred as witnesses of those 
facts, ever ventured to deny them; that no apostate 
disciple, under the fear of punishment, or the hope 
of reward, not even the artful and accomplished Ju- 
lian himself, ever pretended to detect them : that 
neither learning nor ingenuity, in the long lapse of so 
many years, has been able to show their falsehood : 
though, for the first three centuries after their promul- 
gation, the civil government strongly stimulated hos- 
tile inquiry: and that their original relaters, after 
lives of unintermitted hardship, joyfully incurred 
death in defence of their truth We cannot imagine 
the possibility of a more perfect or abundant de- 

It now rests with the Deists, if they would vindi- 
cate their claim to the self-bestowed title of "men of\ 
reason," to adduce some matters of fact of former , 
ages, which they allow to be true, possessing evi- 
dence superior, or even similar, to those of Christ. | 
This, however, it must at the same time be observed, 
would be far from proving the matters of fact respect- j 
ing Christ to be false ; but certainly without this, they 


cannot reasonably assert that their own facts alone, 
so much less powerfully attested, are true. 
Let them produce their Caesar, or Mahomed, 

1. Performing a fact, of which men's outward 
senses can judge; 

2. Publicly, in the presence of witnesses ; 

3. In memory of which public monuments and ac- 
tions are kept up ; 

4. Instituted and commencing at the time of the 

5. Recorded likewise in a set of books, addressed 
to the identical people before whom it was performed, 
and containing their whole code of civil and ecclesi- 
astical laws ; 

6. As the work of one previously announced for 
that very period by a long train of prophecies-, 

7. And still more peculiarly prefigured by types, 
both of a circumstantial and personal nature, from 
the earliest ages ; and, 

8. Of such a character as made it impossible for 
either the relaters or hearers to believe it, if false, 
without supposing a universal deception of the 
senses of mankind. 

Farther ; let them display, in its professed eye-wit- 
nesses, similar proofs of veracity ; in some doctrines 
founded upon it, and unaided by force or intrigue, 
a like triumph over the prejudices and passions of 
mankind : among its believers, equal skill and equal 
diligence in scrutinizing its evidences, OR LET THEM 


And now, reader, solemnly consider what that 
religion is, the truth of which is proved by so many 


decisive marks. It is a declared revelation from 
God ; pronounces all men guilty in his sight ; pro- 
claims pardon, as his free gift through the meritorious 
righteousness, sacrifice, and intercession of his only 
Son, to all who trust alone in his mercy and grace 
cordially repenting and forsaking their sins ; requires 
fervent love, ardent zeal, and cordial submission to- 
ward himself, and the highest degree of personal 
purity and temperance, with rectitude and benevo- 
lence toward others ; and offers the aid of the Holy 
Spirit for these purposes, to all who sincerely ask it. 
Consider, this religion is the only true one, and 
while it promises peace on earth and eternal happi- 
ness to all who do receive and obey it, it denounces 
everlasting destruction against all who do not. It is 
in vain for you to admit its truth, unless you receive 
it as your confidence, and obey it as your rule. Stu- 
dy, then, embrace it for yourself: and may the God 
of love and peace be with you. 




T. PA.UL, 



" It is stated by Rev. T. T. Biddolph, that Lord Lyttehon 
and his friend, Gilbert West, Esq. both men of acknowledg- 
ed talents, had imbibed the pinciples of Infidelity from a su- 
perficial view of the Scriptures. Fnlly persuaded that the 
Bible was an imposture, they were determined to expose the 
cheat. Lord Lyttelton chose tht Conversion of Paul, and 
Mr. West the Resurrection of Christ for the subject cf hos- 
tile criticism. Both sat down to their respective tasks full of 
prejudice ; but the result of their separate attempts was, 
that they were both converted by their efforts to overthrow 
the truth of Christianity. They came together, not a^ they 
expected, to exult over an imposture exposed to ridicule^ 
but to lament over their own folly, and to felicitate eac>. 
other on their joint conviction that the Bible was the word 
of God. Their able inquiries have furnished two of the 
most valuable treatises in favor of revelation, one entitled 
1 Observations on the Conversion of St. Paul,' and the other 
* Observations on the Resurrection of Christ.' " 

SIR, In a late conversation we had upon the sub- 
ject of the Christian religion, I told you, that besides 
all the proofs of it which may be drawn from the pro- 
phecies of the Old Testament, from the necessary 
connection it has with the whole system of the Jew- 
ish religion, from the miracles of Christ, and from the 
evidence given of his resurrection by all the other 
apostles, I thought the conversion and the apostleship 
of St. Paul alone, duly considered, was of itself a de- 
monstration sufficient to prove Christianity to be a Di- 
vine revelation. 

As you seemed to think that so compendious a proof 
might be of use to convince those unbelievers that 
will not attend to a longer series of arguments, I have 
thrown together the reasons upon which I support that 

In the 26th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, written 
by a cotemporary author, and a companion of St. Paul 
in preaching the Gospel, (as appears by the book itself, 
chap. 20 : 6, 13, 14. chap. 27 : 1, &c.) St. Paul is said 
to have given, himself, this account of his conversion 
and preaching, to king Agrippa and Festus the Ro- 
man governor. " My manner of life from my youth, 
whicn was, at the first, among mine own nation at 
Jerusalem, know all the Jews, which knew me from 


the beginning, (if they would testify,) that after the 
straitest beet of our religion, I lived a Pharisee. And 
now I stand and am judged for the hope of the pro- 
mise made by God unto our fathers : unto which pro- 
mise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and 
night, hope to come ; for which hope's sake, kins: 
Agrippa, I am accused by the Jews. Why should it 
be thought a thing incredible with you, that God 
should raise the dead ? I verily thought with myself, 
that I ought to do many things contrary to the name 
of Jesus of Nazareth. Which thing 1 also did in Je- 
rusalem, and many of the saints did I shut up in pri- 
son, having received authority from the chief priests ; 
and when they were put to death, I gave my voice 
against them. And I punished them oft in every 
synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme ; a 
being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted 
them even unto strange cities. Whereupon, as I went 
to Damascus with authority and commission from the 
chief priests, at mid-day, O king, I saw in the way a 
light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun 
shiuing round about me, and them which journeyed 
with me. And when we were all fallen to the earth, 
I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the 
Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou 
me ? It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks 
And I said, who art thou, Lord ? And he said, I arr 
Jesus whom thou persecutest. But rise, stand upon 
thy feet ; for I have appeared unto thee for this pur- 
pose, to make thee a minister, and a witness both of 
those things which thou hast seen, and of those things 
in the which I will appear unto thee ; delivering thee 
irom the people and from the Gentiles unto whom I 


now send thee, to open their eyes, and to turn them 
from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan, 
unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins 
and inheritance among them which are sanctified by 
faith that is in me. Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I 
was not disobedient to the heavenly vision : but show- 
ed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and 
throughout all the coasts of Judea, and to the Gentiles, 
that they should repent and turn to God, and do works 
meet for repentance. For these causes the Je'ws 
caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me. 
Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue 
unto this day, witnessing both ^o small and great, say- 
ing none other things than those which Moses and the 
prophets did say should come : That Christ should sui- 
fer, and that he should be the first that should rise from 
the dead, and should show light to the people, and to 
the Gentiles. And as he thus spake for himself, Fes- 
tus said with a loud voice, Paul thou art beside thy- 
self: much learning doth make thee mad. But he 
said, I am not mad, most noble Festus, but speak forth 
the words of truth and soberness. For the king know- 
eth of these things, before whom also I speak freely ; 
for I am persuaded that none of these things are hid- 
den from him ; for this thing was not done in a cor- 
ner. King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I 
know that thou believest. Then Agrippa said unto 
Paul, almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian. 
And Paul said, I would to God, that not only thou, but 
also all that hear me this day, were both almost and 
altogether such as I am, except these bonds." In ano- 
ther chapter of the same book, he gives in substance 
the same account to the J*. ws, adding these further 


particulars : 'vAarf I said, what shall I do. Lord? And 
the Lord said unto me, arise and go into Damascus, 
and there it shall be told thee of all things which are 
appointed for thee to do. And when I could not see 
for the glory of that light, being led hy the hand of 
them that were with me, I came into Damascus. And 
one Ananias, a devout man, according to the law, hav- 
ing a good report of all the Jews that dwelt therej 
came unto me, and stood, and said unto me, brother 
Saul, receive thy sight : and the same hour I looked 
upon him. And he said, the God of our fathers hath 
chosen thee, that thou shouldst know his Avill, and 
see that just One, and shouldst hear the voice of his 
mouth. For thou shalt be his witness unto all men, 
of what thou hast seen and heard. And now why 
tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away 
thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord." Acts, 22 : 

In the 9th chapter of the same book, the author of it 
relates the same story with some other circumstances 
not mentioned in these accounts ; as, that Saul in a 
vision saw Ananias before he came to him. coming in, 
and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his 
sight. And that when Ananias had spoken to him, 
immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been 
scales. Acts, 9 : 12, 18. 

And agreeably to all these accounts, St. Paul thus 
speaks of himself in the epistles he wrote to the seve- 
ral churches he planted ; the authenticity of which 
cannot be doubted without overturning all rules by 
which the authority and genuineness of any writings 
can be proved or confirmed. 

To the Galatians he says, " I certify you, brethren, 


8 LYTTCLTON Oft [110 

the will of God, by the commandment of God our Sa- 
vior, and Lord Jesus Christ ; and an apostle, not oj 
men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God 
the Father, who raised him from the dead." 2 Cor. 
1:1; Col. 1 : 1 ; 1 Tim. 1:1; Gal. 1 : 1. All which 
implies some miraculous call that made him an apos- 
tle. And to the Corinthians he says, after enumerat- 
ing many appearances of Jesus after his resurrection, 
" and last of all he was seen of me also, as of one 
born out of due time." 1 Cor. 15 : 8. 

Now, it must of necessity be, that the person attest- 
ing these things of himself, and of whom they are 
related in so authentic a manner, either was an IMPOS- 
TOR, who said what he knew to be false, with an in- 
tent to deceive ; or he was an ENTHUSIAST, who, by the 
force of an over-heated imagination, imposed on him- 
self; or he was DECEIVED by the fraud of others, and 
all that he said must be imputed to the power of that 
deceit ; or what he declared to have been the cause of 
his conversion, and to have happened in consequence 
of it, did all REALLY HAPPEN ; and, therefore, the Chris- 
tian religion is a divine revelation. 

I. Paul not an Impostor. 

Now, that he was not an impostor, who said what 
he knew to be false, with an intent to deceive, I shall 
endeavor to prove, by showing that he could have no 
rational motives to undertake such an imposture, nor 
could have possibly carried it on with any success by 
the means we know he employed. , 

First, then, the INDUCEMENT to such an imposture 
must hare been one of these two : either the hope of 


advancing himself by it in his temporal interest, cre- 
dit, or power; or the gratification of some of his pas- 
sions under the authority of it, and by the means it 

Now, these were the circumstances in which St. 
Paul declared his conversion to the faith of Christ 
Jesus: that Jesus who called himself the Messiah, 
and Son of God notwithstanding the innocence and 
loliness of his life ; notwithstanding the miracles by 
which he attested his mission had been crucified by 
the Jews as an impostor and blasphemer, which cruci- 
ixion not only must, humanly speaking, have intimi- 
dated others from following him, or espousing his doc- 
trines, but served to confirm the Jews in their opinion 
that he could not be their promised Messiah, who, ac- 
cording to all their prejudices, was not to suffer in any 
manner, but to reign triumphant for ever here upon 
earth. His apostles, indeed, though at first they ap- 
peared to be terrified by the death of their Master, and 
disappointed in all their hopes, yet had surprisingly 
recovered their spirits again, and publicly taught in his 
name, declaring him to be risen from the grave, and 
confirming that miracle by many they worked, or pre- 
tended to work, themselves. But the chief priests and 
rulers among the Jews were so far from being con- 
verted, either by their words or their works, that they 
had began a severe persecution against them, put some 
to death, imprisoned others, and were going on with 
implacable rage against the whole sect. In all these 
severities St. Paul concurred, being himself a Phari- 
see, bred up at the feet of Gamaliel, Acts, 7 : 9, 22, 
23, one of the chief of that sect. Nor was he content. 
in the heat of his zeal, with persecuting the Christians 


who were at Jerusalem, but breathing out threaten- 
ing and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, 
went unto the high priest and desired of him letters 
to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any 
of this way, whether they were men or women, he 
might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Acts, 9 : 1, 2. 
His request was complied with, and he went to Da- 
mascus with authority and commission from the high 
priest. Acts, 26 : 12. At this instant of time, and 
under these circumstances, did he become a disciple 
of- Christ. What could be his motive to take such a 
part? Was it the hope of increasing his wealth ? The 
certain consequence of his taking that part was not 
only the loss of all that he had, but of all hopes of ac- 
quiring more. Those whom he left were the disposers 
of wealth, of dignity, of power, in Judea ; those whom 
he went to, were indigent men, oppressed and kept 
down from all means of improving their fortunes. 
They, among them, who had more than the rest, shar- 
ed what they had with their brethren ; but with this 
assistance the whole community was hardly supplied 
with the necessaries of life. And even in churches 
he afterwards planted himself, which were much more 
wealthy than that of Jerusalem, so far was St. Paul 
from availing himself of their charity, or the venera- 
tion they had for him, in order to draw that wealth to 
himself, that he often refused to take any part of it 
for the necessaries of life. 

Thus he tells the Corinthians : " Even unto this 
present hour we both hunger and thirst ; and are naked, 
and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling-place, 
and labor, working with our own hands. 7 ' 1 Cor. 15 : S. 

In another epistle he writes to them, "Behold the 


third time I am ready to come to you, and I will not 
be burthensome to you, for I seek not yours, but you ; 
for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, 
but the parents for the children." 2 Cor. 12 : 14. 

To the Thessalonians he says, " As we were al- 
lowed of God to be put in trust with the Gospel, even 
so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God, which 
trieth our hearts. For neither at any time used we 
flattering words, nor a cloak of covetousness ; God is 
witness; nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, 
nor yet of others, when we might have been burden- 
some, as the apostles of Christ. For ye remember, 
brethren, our labor and travel : for laboring night and 
day, because we would not be chargeable to any of 
you, we preached unto you the Gospel of God." 
And again in another letter to them he repeats the 
same testimony of his disinterestedness: "Neither 
did we eat any man's bread for naught, but wrought 
with labor and travel day and night, that we might 
not be chargeable to any of you." 2 Thess. 3: 8. And 
when he took his farewell of the church of Ephesus, 
to whom he foretold that they should see him no 
more, he gives this testimony of himself, and appeals 
to them for the truth of it : "I have coveted no man's 
silver, or gold, or apparel. Yea, you yourselves know, 
that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, 
and to them that were with me." Acts, 20 : 33, 34. 
It is then evident, both from the state of the church, 
when St. Paul first came into it, and from his be- 
havior afterwards, that he had no thoughts of increas- 
ing his wealth by becoming a Christian ; whereas, by 
continuing to be their enemy, he had almost certain 
hopes of making his fortune by the favor of those who 


were at the head of the Jewish state, to whom nothing 
could more recommend him than the zeal that he 
showed in that persecution. As to credit or repu 
tation. that too lay all on the side he forsook. The 
sect he embraced was under the greatest and most 
universal contempt of any then in the world. The 
chiefs and leaders of it were men of the lowest birth, 
education, and rank. They had no one advantage ot 
parts, or learning, or other human endowments to re- 
commend them. The doctrines they taught were 
contrary to those which they who were accounted 
the wisest and most knowing of their nation profess- 
ed. The wonderful works that they did were either 
imputed to magic or to imposture. The very author 
and head of their faith had been condemned as a 
criminal, and died on the. cross between two thieves- 
Could the disciple of Gamaliel think he should gain 
any credit or reputation by becoming a teacher in & 
college of fishermen? Could he flatter himself tha* 
either in or out of Judea the doctrines he taught could 
do him any honor? No; he knew very well that thr 
Breaching Christ crucified was a stumbling-block to 
the Jews, and to the Greeks foolishness. 1 Cor. 1 : 23. 
He afterwards found by experience, that in all parts 
of the world, contempt was the portion of whoever 
engaged in preaching a mystery so unpalatable to the 
world to all its passions and pleasures, and so ir: 
concilable to the pride of human reason. We are 
made (says he to the Corinthians) as the Jilih of the 
world, the off-scouring of all things unto this day. 
\ Cor. 4 : 13. Yet he went on as zealously as he set 
out, and was not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ. 
Certainly then, the desire of glory, the ambition oi 

rer I 

1TA \\ 


making to himself a great name, was not his motive 

to embrace Christianity. Was it then the love of 

power ? Power ! over whom ? over a flock of sheep 

driven to the slaughter, whose shepherd himself had 

been murdered a little before ! All he could hope from 

that power was to be marked out in a particular man- 

I ner for the same knife which he had seen so bloodily 

drawn against them. Could he expect more mercy 

i from the chief priests and the rulers than they had 

i shown to Jesus himself? Would not their anger be 

I probably fiercer against the deserter and betrayer of 

: their cause, than against any other of the apostles ? 

| Was power over so mean and despised a set of men 

i worth encountering so much danger? But still it may 

be said, there are some natures so fond of power that 

they will court it at any risk, and be pleased with it 

even over the meanest. Let us see then what power 

I St. Paul assumed over the Christians. Did he pre- 

stend to any superiority over the other apostles? No; 

he declared himself the least of them, and less than 

\the least of all saints. Ephes. 3: 8, 1 Cor. 15: 9. 

,Even in the churches he planted himself, he never 

pretended to any primacy or power above the other 

; apostles; nor would he be regarded any otherwise by 

them, than as the instrument to them of the grace of 

i God, and preacher of the Gospel, not as the head of 

la sect. To the Corinthians he writes in these words : 

!i " Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of 

I Paul, and I of Apollos, and I of Cephas, and I of Christ. 

I Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or 

jwere ye baptized in the name of Paul ?" 1 Cor. 1 : 12, 17. 

|And in another place, " Who then is Paul, and who is 

Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as 


the Lord gave to every man ?" 1 Cor. 3:5. " For we 
preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and 
ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake." 2 Cor. 4 : 5. 
All the authority he exercised over them was pure- 
ly of a spiritual nature, tending to their instruction 
and edification, without any mixture of that civil do- 
minion in which alone an impostor can find his ac- 
count. Such was the dominion acquired and exercised 
through. the pretence of Divine inspiration, by many 
ancient legislators, by Minos, Rhadamanthus, Tripto- 
lemus, Lycurgus, Numa, Zaleucus, Zoroaster, Xam- 
olxis; nay, even by Pythagoras, who joined legislation 
to his philosophy, and, like the others, pretended to 
miracles and revelations from God, to give a more 
venerable sanction to the laws he prescribed. Such, 
in latter times, was attained by Odin among the 
Goths, by Mohammed among the Arabians, by Man- 
go Copac among the Peruvians, by the Sofi family 
among the Persians, and that of the Xeriffs among 
the Moors. To such a dominion did also aspire the 
many false Messiahs among the Jews. In short, a 
spiritual authority was only desired as a foundation 
for temporal power, or as the support of it, by al 
these pretenders to Divine inspiration, and others 
whom history mentions in different ages and coun- 
tries to have used the same arts. But St. Paul in- 
novated nothing in government or civil affairs ; he 
meddled not with legislation ; he formed no common- 
wealths ; he raised no seditions ; he affected no tem- 
poral power. Obedience to their rulers (Romans, 13 
was the doctrine he taught to the churches he planted 
and what he taught he practiced himself: nor did he 
use any of those soothing arts by which ambitious 


and cunning men recommend themselves to the favor 
of those whom they endeavor to subject to their pow- 
er. Whatever was wrong in the disciples under his 
care he freely reproved, as it became a teacher from 
I God, of which numberless instances are to be found 
in all his epistles. And he was as careful of them 
| when he had left them, as while he resided among 
I them, which an impostor would hardly have been, 
whose ends were centered all in himself. This is 
' the manner in which he writes to the Philippians : 
t; Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, 
I not in my presence only, but now much more in my 
i absence, work out your own salvation with fear and 
i trembling." 7 Phil. 2 : 12. And a little after he adds the 
cause why he interested himself so much in their con- 
duct, u That ye may be blameless and harmless, the 
sons of God in the midst of a crooked and perverse 
(nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world, 
[holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in 
I the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither 
labored in vain. Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacri- 
I fice and service of your faith, I joy and rejoice with 
I you all." Phil. 2 : 15-17. Are those the words of an 
||impostor, desiring nothing but temporal power ? No; 
:' they are evidently written by one who looked beyond 
lithe bounds of this life. But it may be said that he 
I (affected at least an absolute spiritual power over the 
I Ichurches he formed. I answer, he preached Christ 
ll/esws, and not himself. Christ was the head, he only 
I the minister ; and for such only he gave himself to 
I them. He called those who assisted him in preach- 
I ing the Gospel, his fellow laborers and fellow- 


So far was he from taking any advantage of a high- 
er education, superior learning, and more use of th< 
world, to claim to himself any supremacy above tin 
other apostles, that he made light of all these attain 
ments, and declared that he came not with excelled 
cy of speech, or of -wisdom, but determined to kno 
nothing among those he converted save Jesus Chrii 
and him crucified. And the reason he gave for 
was, that their faith should not stand in the wisd( 
of men, but in the power of God. 1 Cor. 2 : 1, 2-5. No 
this conduct put him quite on a level with the otherapos- 
tles, who knew Jesus Christ as well as he, and had the 
power of God going along with their preaching in an 
equal degree of virtue and grace. But an impostor, 
whose aim had been power, would have acted a con- 
trary part; he would have availed himself of all those 
advantages, he would have extolled them as highly as 
possible, he would have set up himself by virtue ot 
them as head of that sect to which he acceded, or at 
least of the proselytes made by himself. This is no 
more than what was done by every philosopher who 
formed a school ; much more was it natural in one 
who propagated a new religion. 

We see that the Bishops of Rome have claimed to 
themselves a primacy, or rather a monarchy over the 
whole Christian church. If St. Paul had been actu- 
ated by the same lust of dominion, it was much easier 
for him to have succeeded in such an attempt. It was 
much easier to make himself head of a few poor me- 
chanics and fishermen, whose superior he had always 
been in the eyes of the world, than for the bishops of 
Rome to reduce those of Ravenna or Milan, and other 
great metropolitans, to their obedience. Besides the op- 


posision they met with from such potent antagonists, 
they were obliged to support their pretensions in direct 
contradiction to those very Scriptures which they were 
forced to ground them upon, and to the indisputable 
practice of the whole Christian church for many cen- 
turies. These were such difficulties as required the 
utmost abilities and skill to surmount. But the first 
preachers of the Gospel had easier means to corrupt 
a faith not yet fully known, and which in many places 
could only be known by what they severally published 
themselves. It was necessary, indeed, while they con* 
tinued together, and taught the same people, that they 
should agree, otherwise the credit of their sect would 
ftave been overthrown ; but when they separated, and 
(formed different churches in distant countries, the 
i*ame necessity no longer remained. 

It was in the power of St. Paul to model most of the 

churches he formed, so as to favor his own ambition; 

i for he preached the Gospel in parts of the world where 

| no other apostles had been, where Christ was not 

warned till he brought the knowledge of him, avoiding 

to build upon another man's foundation. Rom. 15 : 20. 

Now had he been an impostor, would he have confined 

Ihiraself to just the same Gospel as was delivered by the 

jother apostles, where he had such a latitude to preach 

kvhat he pleased without contradiction ? Would he 

juot have twisted and warped the doctrines of Christ 

!ko his own ends, to the particular use and expediency 

of his own followers, and to the peculiar support and 

'increase of his own power? That this was not done 

by St. Paul, or by any other of the apostles in so many 

various parts of the world as they traveled into, and 

in churches absolutely under their own direction ; that 


the Gospel preached by them all should be one and 
the same, the doctrines agreeing in every particular, 
without any one of them attributing more to himself 
than he did to the others, or establishing anything 
even in point of order or discipline different from the 
rest, or more advantageous to his own interest, credit 
or power, is a most strong and convincing proof i 
their not being impostors, but acting entirely by Di- 
vine inspiration. 

If any one imagines that he sees any difference be- 
tween the doctrines of St. James and St. Paul con- 
cerning justification by faith or by works, let him read 
Mr. Locke's excellent comment upon the epistles of 
the latter; or let him only consider these words in the 
lirst epistle to the Corinthians, chap. 9 : 27. But I 
keep under my body, and bring" it into subjection, 
lest that by any means, when I have preached to 
others, I myself should be a cast away. 

If St. Paul had believed or taught that faith with- 
out works was sufficient to save a disciple of Christ, 
to what purpose did he keep under his body, since his 
salvation was not to depend upon that being subject- 
ed to the power of his reason, but merely upon the I 
faith he professed 1 His faith was firm, and so strong- 
ly founded upon the most certain conviction, that he j 
had no reason to doubt its continuance; how could he 
then think it possible, that while he retained that sav- 
ing faith, he might nevertheless be a cast away? Or 
if he had supposed that his election and calling was! 
of such a nature, as that it irresistibly impelled him I 
to good, and restrained him from evil, how could hej 
express any fear, lest the lusts of his body should pre 

vp.nt his snlvnfinn? Onn snr.h an annrehension be) 


made to agree with the notions of absolute predestina- 
tion, ascribed by some to St. Paul ? He could have no 
doubt that the grace of God had been given to him in 
the most extraordinary manner; yet we see that he 
thought his election was not so certain but that he 
might fall from it again through the natural prevalence 
of bodily appetites, if not duly restrained by his own 
voluntary care. This single passage is a full answer, 
out of the mouth of St. Paul himself, to all the mis- 
takes that have been made of his meaning in some 
obscure expressions concerning grace, election, and 

If, then, it appears that St. Paul had nothing to gam 
by taking this part, let us consider, on the other hand, 


He gave up a fortune, which he was then in a fair 
way of advancing : he gave up that reputation which 
he had acquired by the labors and studies of his whole 
life, and by a behavior which had been blameless, 
touching the righteousness which is in the law. Phil, 
o : 6. He gave up his friends, his relations, and family^, 
from whom he estranged and banished himself for life ; 
he gave up that religion which he had profited in, above 
many fiis equals in his own nation, and those tradi- 
tions of his fathers, which he had been more exceed- 
ingly zealous of . Gal. 1 : ]4. How hard this sacrifice 
was to a man of his warm temper, and above all men, 
to a Jew, is worth consideration, That nation is known 
to have been more tenacious of their religious opinions 
than any other upon the face of the earth. The strict- 
est and proudest sect among them was that of the 

Pharisees, under whose discipline St. Paul was bred. 
1 1 

20 LY1TELTON ON [122 

The departing, therefore, so suddenly from their favor- 
ite tenets, renouncing their pride, and from their disciple 
becoming their adversary, was a most difficult effort 
for one to make so nursed up in the esteem of them, 
und whose early prejudices were so strongly confirmed 
by all the power of habit, all the authority of example, 
and all the allurements of honor and interest. These 
were the sacrifices he had to make in becoming a 
Christian ; let us now see what inconveniences he hat 
to fear: the implacable vengeance of those he deserted 
that sort of contempt which is hardest to bear, the 
contempt of those whose good opinion he had mos 
eagerly sought, and all those other complicated evil 
which he describes in his second Epistle to the Corin 
thians, chap. 11. Evils, the least of which were enougl 
to have frighted any impostor even from the most hope 
ful and profitable cheat. But where the advantage pro 
posed bears no proportion to the dangers incurred, o 
the mischiefs endured, he must be absolutely out o 
his senses who will either engage in an imposture, or 
being engaged, persevere. 

Upon the whole, then, I think I have proved tha 
the desire of wealth, or fame, or of power, could be 
no motive to make St. Paul a convert to Christ ; bu 
that, on the contrary, he must have been checked by 
that desire, as well as by the just apprehension of ma 
ny inevitable and insupportable evils, from taking a 
part so contradictory to his past life, to all the princi- 
ples he had imbibed, and all the habits he had con- 

It only remains to be inquired, whether the GRATI- 
FICATION OF ANY OTHER PASSION under the authority of 

123] CONVERSION or FA.UL. 21 

that religion, or by the means it afforded, could be his 
inducement. That there have been some impostors, 
who have pretended to revelations from God, merely 
to give loose to irregular passions, and set themselves 
free from all restraints of government, law, or mora- 
lity, both ancient and modern history shows. But the 
doctrine preached by St. Paul is absolutely contrary 
to all such designs. His writings* breathe nothing 
but the strictest morality, obedience to magistrates, 
order, and government, with the utmost abhorrence of 
all licentiousness, idleness, or loose behavior under 
the cloak of religion. We no where read in his works, 
that saints are above moral ordinances ; that dominion 
or property is founded in grace ; that there is no dif- 
ference in moral actions ; that any impulses of the 
mind are to direct us against the light of our reason, 
and the laws of nature ; or any of those wicked tenets, 
from which the peace of society has been disturbed, 
and the rule's of morality have been broken by men 
pretending to act under the sanction of a divine reve- 
lation. Nor does any part of his life, either before or 
after his conversion to Christianity, bear any mark of 
a libertine disposition. As among the Jews, so among 
the Christians, his conversion and manners were 
blameless. Hear the appeal that he makes to the Thes- 
salonians upon his doctrine and behavior among them : 
" Our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of unclean- 
ness, nor in guile : ye are witnesses, and God also, 
how holily, and justly, and unblameably we behaved 
ourselves among you that believe."f And to the Co- 

* See particularly Rom. 11 and 13, and Col. 3. 
tThess. 2 : 10. If St. Paul had held any secret doctrines, or 
esoteric, (as the philosophers called them,) we should have pro- 


rinthians he says, we have wronged no man, we have 
corrupted no man, we have defrauded no man. 2 
Cor. 7 : 2. See also ] J.2, and 4 : 2. 

It was not, then, the desire of gratifying any irregu- 
lar passion, that could induce St. Paul to turn Chris- 
tian, any more than the hope of advancing himself 
either in wealth, or reputation, or power. But still it 
!s possible, some men may say, (and I would leave no 
imaginable objection unanswered,) that though St. 
Paul could have no selfish or interested view in un- 
dertaking such an imposture, yet, for the sake of its 
moral doctrines, he might be inclined to support the 
Christian faith, and make USE OF SOME PIOUS FRAUDS 
to advance a religion which, though erroneous and 
false in its theological tenets, and in the fact upon 
which it is grounded, was, in its precepts and influ- 
ence, beneficial to mankind. 

Now, admit that some good men in the heathen 
world have both pretended to divine revelations, and 
introduced or supported religions they knew to be 
false, under a notion of public utility. But besides that, 
this practice was built upon maxims disclaimed by the 

hably found them in the letters he wrote to Timothy, Tit 
nnd Philemon, his bocom friend* and disciples. But both the 
theological and moral doctrines are exactly the same in tfiem, 
as those he wrote to the churches. A very strong presumptive 
proof of his being no impostor! Surely, had he been one, he 
would have given some hints in these private letters of the 
client they were carrying on, and some secret directions to 
turn it to come worldly purposes of one kind or another. But 
no such thing is to be found in any one of them. The same dis- 
interested, holy, and divine spirit breathes in all these, as 'w 
the other more public epistles. 


Jews, (who, looking upon truth, not utility, to be the 
basis of their religion, abhorred all such frauds, and 
thought them injurious to the honor of God,) the cir- 
cumstances they acted in were different from those of 
St. Paul. 

The first reformers of savage, uncivilized nations, 
had no other way to tame those barbarous people, and 
to bring them to submit to order and government, but 
by the reverence which they acquired from this pre- 
tence. The fraud was therefore alike beneficial both 
to the deceiver and the deceived. And in all other in- 
stances which can be given of good men acting this 
part, they not only did it to serve good ends, but were 
secure of its doing no harm. Thus, when Lycurgus 
persuaded the Spartans, or Numa the Romans, that 
the laws of the one were inspired by Apollo, or those 
of the other by Egeria; when they taught their people 
to put great faith in oracles, or in augury, no temporal 
mischief, either to them or their people, could attend 
the reception of that belief. It drew on no persecu- 
tions, no enmity with the world. But at that time, 
when St. Paul iadertook the preaching of the Gospel, 
to persuade any man to be a Christian, was to per- 
suade him to expose himself to all the calamities hu- 
man nature could suffer. This St. Paul knew ; this he 
not only expected, but warned those he taught to look 
for it too. 1 Thess. 3 : 4; 2 Cor. 6 : 4, 5; Eph. 6 : 10- 
16; Phil. 1 : 28-30. The only support that he had 
himself, or gave to them, was, " That if they suffered 
with Christ, they should be also glorified together." 
And that " he reckoned that the sufferings of the pre 
sent time were not worthy to be compared with that 
glory." Rom. 8 : 17, 18. So likewise he writes to the 


Thessalonians : " We ourselves glory in you, in the 
churches of God, for your patience and faith in all 
your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure; 
which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment 
of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the king- 
dom of God, for which also ye suffer. Seeing it is a 
righteous thing with God to recompense (or repay) 
tribulation to them that trouble you ; and to you who 
are troubled, rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall 
be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels. <$-c." 
2 Thess. 1 : 4-7. And to the Corinthians he says, "If 
in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all 
men most miserable." How much reason he had to 
say this, the hatred, the contempt, the torments, the 
deaths endured by the Christians in that age, and long 
afterwards, abundantly prove. Whoever professed the 
Gospel under these circumstances, without an entire 
conviction of its being a divine revelation, must have 
been mad ; and if he made others profess it by fraud 
or deceit, he must have been worse than mad ; he must 
have been the most hardened villain that ever breath- 
ed. Could any man, who had in his vature the least 
spark of humanity, subject his fellow-creatures to so 
many miseries ; or could one that had in his mind the 
least ray of reason, expose himself to share them with 
those he deceived, in order to advance a religion which 
he knew to be false, merely for the sake of its moral 
doctrines ? Such an extravagance is too absurd to be 
supposed ; and I dwell too long on a notion that, upou 
a little reflection, confutes itself. 

I would only add to the other proofs I have given, 
that St. Paul could have no rational motive to become 
a disciple of Christ unless he sincerely believed io 


him, this observation : that whereas it may be object- 
ed to the other apostles, by those who are resolved 
not to credit their testimony, that having been deeply 
engaged with Jesus during his life, they were obliged 
to continue the same professions after his death, for 
the support of their own credit, and from having gone 
too far to go back : this Can by no means be said of St. 
Paul. On the contrary, whatever force there may be in 
that way of reasoning, it all tends to convince us that 
St. Paul must have naturally continued a Jew, and an 
enemy of Christ Jesus. If they were engaged on one 
side, he was as strongly engaged on the other j if shame 
withheld them from changing sides, much more ought 
it to have stopped him, who being of a higher educa- 
tion and rank in life a great deal than they, had more 
credit to lose, and must be supposed to have been 
vastly more sensible to that sort of shame. The only 
difference was, that they, by quitting their master af- 
ter his death, might have preserved themselves ; where- 
I as he, by quitting the Jews, and taking up the cross 
| of Christ, certainly brought on his own destruction. 

As, therefore, no rational motive appears for St. 
; Paul's embracing the faith of Christ, without Laving 
been really convinced of the truth of it ; but, on the con- 
trary, every thing concurred to deter him from acting 
j that part ; one might very justly conclude, that when 
i a man of his understanding embraced that faith, he 
-,vas in reality convinced of the truth of it ; and that, 
I by consequence, he was not an impostor, who said 
! what he knew to be false with an intent to deceive. 

But that no shadow of doubt may remain upon the 
i impossibility of his having been such an impostor; 


that it may not be said, " The minds of men are some- 
times so capricious that they will act without any 
rational motives, they know not why, and so perhaps 
might St. Paul:" I shall next endeavor to prove, that 
if he had been so unaccountably wild and absurd as 
to undertake an imposture so unprofitable and dange- 
rous both to himself and those he deceived by it, he 


SUCCESS by the means that we know he employed. 

First, then, let me observe, thru if his conversion, 
and the part that he acted in consequence of it, was an 
imposture, it was such an imposture as could not be 
carried on by one man alone. The faith he professed, 
and which he became an apostle of, was not his in- 
vention. He was not the author or beginner of it, and 
therefore it was not in his power to draw the doctrines 
of it out of his own imagination. With Jesus, who 
was the Author and Head of it, he had never had any 
communication before his death, nor with his apostles 
after his death,^except as their persecutor. As he took 
on himself the office and character of an apostle, it 
was absolutely necessary for him to have a precise 
and perfect knowledge of all the facts contained in the 
Gospel, several of which had only passed between Je- 
sus himself and his twelve apostles, and others n-ore 
privately still, so that they could be known but to very 
few, being not yet made public by any writings ; other- 
wise he would have exposed himself to ridicule among 
those who preached that Gospel with more knowledge 
than he ; and as the testimony they bore would have 
been different in point of fact, and many of their doc- 
trines and interpretations of Scripture repugnant to 
his, from their entire disagreement with those Jewish 


opinions in which he was bred up ; either they must 
lave been forced to ruin his credit, or he would have 
ruined theirs. Some general notices he might have 
gained of these matters from the Christians he perse- 
cuted, but not exactor extensive enough to qualify him 
an apostle, whom the least error, in these points, 
would have disgraced, and who must have been ruin- 
ed by it in all his pretentious to that inspiration from 
whence the apostolical authority was chiefly derived. 
It was, therefore, impossible for him to act this part 
but in confederacy, at least, with the apostles. Such 
a confederacy was still more necessary for him, as the 
undertaking to preach the Gospel did not only require 
an exact and particular knowledge of all it contained, 
nit an apparent power of working miracles ; for to 
such a power all the apostles appealed in proof of their 
mission, and of the doctrines they preached. He was, 
therefore, to learn of them by what secret arts they so 
m posed on the senses of men, if this power was a 
cheat. But how could he gain these men to become 
his confederates ? Was it by furiously persecuting 
them and their brethren, as we find that he did, to the 
very moment of his conversion ? Would they venture 
to trust their capital enemy with all the secrets of their 
imposture, with those upon which all their hopes and 
credit depended? Would they put it in his power to 
take away not only their lives, but the honor of their 
sect, which they preferred to their lives, by so ill-plac- 
ed a confidence ? Would men, so secret as not to be 
drawn by the most severe persecutions to say one word 
which could convict them of being impostors, confess 
themselves such to their persecutor, in hopes of his 
being their accomplice ? This is still more impossi- 

28 LYTTELTON ON ("130 


ble than that he should attempt to engage in their fraud 
without their consent and assistance. 

We must suppose then, that, till he came to Dam 
cus, he had no communication with the apostles, act 
in no concert with them, and learnt nothing from the: 
except the doctrines which they had publicly taught 
all the world. When he came there ne told the Jews, 
to whom he brought letters from the high priest and 
'he synagogue ag.ainst the Christians, of his having 
seen in the way a great light from heaven, and heard 
Jesus Christ reproaching him with his persecution, and 
commanding him to go into the city, where? it should be 
told him what he was to do. But to account for his 
choosing this method of declaring himself a convert 
to Christ, we must suppose, that all those who were 
with him, when he pretended he had this vision, were 
his accomplices ; otherwise the story he told could have 
gained no belief, being contradicted by them whose 
testimony was necessary to vouch for the /;* h of it. 
And yet how can we suppose that all these men shou ' 
be willing to join in this imposture 1 They were, prt 
oably, officers of justice, or soldiers, who had been 
employed often before in executing the orders of the 
high priest and the rulers against the Christians. Or, 
if they were chosen particularly for this expedition, 
they must have been chosen by them as men they 
could trust for their zeal in that cause. What should 
induce them to the betraying of that business they 
were employed in 1 Does it even appear that they 
had any connection with the man they so lied for, be- 
fore or after this time, or any reward from him for it? 
This is, therefore, a difficulty in the first outset of this 
imposture not to be overcome. 


But, farther : he was to be instructed by one at Da- 
mascus. That instructor, therefore, must have been 
his accomplice, though they appeared to be absolute 
strangers to one another ; and though he was a man 
of an excellent character, who had a good report oj 
\all the Jews that dwelt at Damascus, and so was very 
[unlikely to have engaged in such an imposture. Not- 
(withstanding these improbabilities, this man, I say, 
Ipnust have been his confidant and accomplice in carry- 
ling on this fraud, and the whole matter must have 
been previously agreed on between them. But, here 
Ifigain the same objection occurs: how could this man 
venture to act such a dangerous part, without the con- 
sent of the other disciples, especially of the apostles, 
br by what means could he obtain their consent ? And 
Iiow absurdly did they contrive their business, to make 
pe conversion of Saul the effect of a miracle, which 
Lll those who were with him must certify did never 
[happen ! How much easier would it have been to 
have made him be present at some pretended miracle 
[kvrought by the disciples, or by Ananias himself, when 
i none were ab) discover the fraud, and have im- 
[puted his conversion to that, or to the arguments used 
Ipy some of his prisoners whom he might have dis- 
Icoursed with, and questioned about their faith, and the 
[grounds of it, in order to color his intended conversion ! 

As this was the safest, so it was the most natural 
Imethod of bringing about such a change, instead of 
JRscribing it to an event which lay so open to detection 
IFor, to use the words of St. Paul to Agrippa, this 
mhing was not done in a corner, Acts, 26, but in the 
Ijeye of the world, and subject immediately to the ex- 
lamination of those who would be the most strict in 

30 LYTTELTON 0!t [132 

searching into the truth of it, the Jews at Damascus. 
Had they been able to bring any shadow of proof to 
convict him of fraud in this affair, his whole scheme 
of imposture must have been nipt in the bud. Nor 
were they, at Jerusalem, whose commission he bore, 
less concerned to discover so provoking a cheat. But 
we find that, many years afterwards, when they had 
all the time and means they could desire to make the 
strictest inquiry, he was bold enough to appeal to 
Agrippa, in the presence of Festus, Acts, 26, upon 
his knowledge of the truth of his story; who did not 
contradict him, though he had certainly heard all that 
the Jews could allege against the credit oi'* it in any 
particular a very remarkable proof, both of the no- 1 
loriety of the fact, and the integrity of the man, who, 
with so fearless a confidence, could call upon a king \ 
to give testimony for him, even while he was silting 
in judgment upon him. 

But to return to Ananias. Is it not strange, if this | 
story had been an imposture, and he had been join 
with Paul in carrying it on, that, after their meeting i 
Damascus, we never should hear of their consortin 
together, or acting in concert ; or that the former dre 
any b'enefit from the friendship of the latter, when i 
became so considerable among the Christians ? 
Ananias engage and continue in such a danger 
fraud without any hopes or desire of private adva 
tage ? Or was it safe for Paul to shake him off, 
risk his resentment ? There is, I think, no other ' 
to get over this difficulty but by supposing that AD 
nias happened to die soon after the other's conversion j 
Let us, then, take that for granted, without any autho- j 
rity either of history or tradition, and let us see in wha 


t manner this wondrous imposture was carried on by 
I Paul himself. His iirst care ought to have been to get 
t himself owned and received as an apostle by the apos- 
I ties. Till this was done, the bottom he stood upon 
I was very narrow, nor could he have any probable 
I means of supporting himself in any esteem or credu 
I among the disciples. Intruders into impostures run 

double risks ; they are in danger of being detected, not 
I only by those upon whom they attempt to practice 

their cheats, but also by those whose society they force 

themselves into, who must always be jealous of such 
I an intrusion, and much more from one who had al- 
Sways before behaved as their enemy. Therefore, to 
gain the apostles, and bring them to admit him into a 
I participation of all their mysteries, all their designs, 
I and all their authority, was absolutely necessary at this 
I time to Paul. The least delay was of dangerous con- 
llsequence, and might expose him to such inconve- 
iniences as he never afterwards could overcome. But, 
instead of attending to this necessity, he went into Ara- 
1 bia, and then returned again to Damascus ; nor did he 
I Ljo to Jerusalem till three years were past Giil. 1 : 17, 18. 

', Now, this conduct may be accounted for, if it be true 
that (as he declares in his Epistle to the Galatians) 
Ih he neither received the Gospel of any man, neither 
was he taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus 
Iphrist." 1 : 12. Under such a Master, and with the 
i assistance of his divine power, he might go on boldly 
without any human associates ; but an impostor so left 
Jko himself, so deprived of all help, all support, all re- 
ij commendation, could not have succeeded. 

Further : We find that, at Antioch. he was not afraid 
lift withstand Peter to his face, and even to reprove 



him before all the disciples, because he was to be 
blamed. Gal. 2 : 11-14. If he was an impostor, how 
could he venture so to offend that apcwtle, whom it so 
highly concerned him to agree with and please ? Ac- 
complices in a fraud are obliged to show greater regarc 
to each other ; such freedom belongs to truth alone. 

But let us consider what DIFFICULTIES HE HAD TO 
enterprise he undertook of going to them, making him 
self their apostle, and converting them to the religion 
of Christ. As this undertaking was the distinguishinj 
part of his apostolical functions, that which, in the Ian 
guage of his epistles, he was particularly called to 
or which, to speak like an unbeliever, he chose am 
assigned to himself; it deserves a particular conside 
ration. But I shall only touch the principal points 
it as concisely as I can. because you have in a grez 
measure exhausted the subject in your late excellei 
book on the resurrection, where you discourse wit 
such strength of reason and eloquence upon the dii 
culties that opposed the propagation of the Christian 
religion in all parts of the world. 

Now, in this enterprise St. Paul was to contend, 1. 
With tho policy and power of the magistrate. 2. With 
the interest, credit, and craft of the priests. 3. With 
the prejudice and passions of the people. 4. With the 
wisdom and pride of the philosophers. 

That in all heathen countries th- established reli- 
gion was interwoven with their civil constitution, and 
supported by the magistrate as an essential part of 
the government, whoever has any acquaintance with 
antiquity cannot but know. They tolerated, indeed, 


many different worships, (though not with so entire a 
latitude as some people suppose,) as they suffered men 
to discourse very freely concerning religion, provided 
they would submit to an exterior conformity with es- 
tablished rites ; nay, according to the genius of pagan- 
ism, which allowed an intercommunity of worship, 
they in most places admitted, without any great diffi- 
culty, new gods and new rites ; but they no where en- 
dured any attempt to overturn the established religion, 
or any direct opposition made to it, esteeming that an 
unpardonable offence, not to the gods alone, but to the 
state. This was so universal a notion, and so constant 
a maxim of heathen policy, that when the Christian 
religion set itself up in opposition to all other religions, 
admitted no intercommunity with them, but declared 
that the gods of the Gentiles were not to be worshiped^ 
any society suffered between them and the only 
true God ; when this new doctrine began to be pro- 
pagated, and made such a progress as to fall under the 
notice of the magistrate, the civil power was every 
where armed with all its terrors against it. When, 
therefore, St. Paul undertook the conversion of the 
Gentiles, he knew very well that the most severe per- 
ecutions must be the consequence of any success in 
lis design. 

2. This danger was rendered more certain by the 
pposition he was to expect from the interest, credit, 
and craft of the priests. How gainful a trade they, 
with all their inferior dependants, made of those su- 
Derstitions which he proposed to destroy ; how much 
credit they had with the people, as well as the state, 
the means of them ; and how much craft they em 
ployed in carrying on their impostures, all history 

34 L77TKLTON ON [130 

shows. St. Paul could not doubt that all these men 
would exert their utmost abilities to stop the spread- 
ing of the doctrines he preached. doctrines which 
struck at the root of their power and gain, and were 
much more terrible to them than those of the most 
atheistical sect of philosophers ; because the latter con- 
tented themselves with denying their principles, but 
at the same time declared for supporting their prac- 
tices, as useful cheats, or at least acquiesced in then 
as establishments authorized by the sanction of lav 
Whatever, therefore, their cunning could do to suppor 
their own worship, whatever aid they could draw fron 
the magistrate, whatever zeal they could raise in the 
people, St. Paul was to contend with, unsupported by 
any human assistance. And 

3. This he was to do in direct opposition to all the 
prejudices and passions of the people. 

Now, had he confined his preaching to Judea alone, 
this difficulty would not have occurred in near so 
a degree. The people were there so moved with the j 
miracles the apostles had wrought, as well as by the 
memory of those done by Jesus, that, in spite of their 
rulers, they began to be favorably disposed towards 
them ; and we even find that the high-priest, and the 
council, had more than once been withheld from treat- [ 
ing the apostles with so much severity as they desired! 
to do, for fear of the people. Acts, 4 : 21, and 5 : 26 
But in the people among the Gentiles no such dispo 
sitions could be expected : their prejudices were vio 
lent, not only in favor of their own superstitions, but| 
in a particular manner against any doctrines taught 1 
a Jew. As from their aversion to all idolatry, and ir*| 
reconcilable separation from all other religions, 


Jews were accused of hating mankind, so were they 
hated by all other nations ; nor were they hated alone, 
but despised. To what a degree that contempt was 
carried, appears as well by the mention made of them 
in heathen authors, as by the complaints Josephus 
makes of the unreasonableness and injustice of it in 
his apology. What authority then could St. Paul flat- 
ter himself that his preaching would carry along with 

among people to whom he was at once both the 
abject of national hatred, and national scorn? But 
besides this popular prejudice against a Jew, the doc- 
trines he taught were such as shocked all their most 
ingrafted religious opinions. They agreed to no prin- 
ciples of which he could avail himself to procure their 
assent to the other parts of the Gospel he preached. 
To convert the Jews to Christ Jesus, he was able to 
argue from their own Scriptures, upon the authority 
of books which they owned to contain divine revela- 
tions, and from which he could clearly convince them 
that Jesus was the very Christ. Acts, 9 : 22. But all 
these ideas were new to the Gentiles ; they expected no 
Christ, they allowed no such Scriptures, they were to be 
taught the Old Testament as well as the New, How 
was this to be done by a man not even authorized by 
his own nation ; opposed by those who were greatest, 
and thought wisest, among them ; either quite single, 
or on'y attended by one or two more under the same 
disadvantages, and even of less Consideration than he ? 

The light of nature, indeed, without express reve- 
lations, might have conducted the Gentiles to the 
knowledge of one God, the Creator of all things ; and 
to that light St. Paul might appeal, as we find that 
he did; Acts 14: 17 ; 17: 27, 2S. But clear as it was 


they had almost put it out by their superstitions, hav- 
ing changed the glory of the incorruptible God into 
an image made like to corruptible man, and to 
birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things, 
and serving the creature more than the Creator. 
Rom. 1 : 23, 25. And to this idolatry they were strong- 
ly attached, not by their prejudices alone, but by their 
passions, which were flattered and gratified in it, as 
they believed that their deities would be rendered 
propitious, not by virtue and holiness, but by offer- 
ings, and incense, and outward rites ; rites which daz 
7led their senses by magnificent shows, and allured 
them by pleasures often of a very impure and immo- 
ral nature. Instead of all this, the Gospel proposed to 
them no other terms of acceptance with God but a wor- 
ship of him in spirit and in truth, sincere repentance, 
and perfect submission to the Divine laws, the strictest 
purity of life and manners, and the renouncing of all 
those lusts in which they had formerly walked. How 
unpalatable a doctrine was this to men so given up to 
the power of those lusts, as the whole heathen world 
was at that time ! If their philosophers could be 
brought to approve it, there could be no hope that the 
people would relish it, or exchange the ease and in- 
dulgence which those religions ra which they were 
bred allowed to their appetites, for one so harsh and 
severe. But might not St. Paul, in order to gain them, 
relax that severity? He might have done so, no 
doubt, and probably would, if he had been an impos- 
tor ; but it appears by all his epistles, that he preach- 
ed it as purely, and enjoined it as strongly, as Jesus 

But supposing they might be pursuaded to quit 


their habitual sensuality for the purity of the Gospel, 
and to forsake their idolatries, which St. Paul reckons 
amongst the works of the flesh, Gal. 5 : 19, 20, for 
spiritual worship of the one invisible God, how were 
they disposed to receive the doctrine of the salvation 
of man by the cross of Jesus Christ? Could they 
who were bred in notions so contrary to that great 
mystery, to that hidden wisdom of God, which none 
of the princes of this world knew, I Cor. 2: 7, 8, in- 
cline to receive it against the instructions of all their 
teachers, and the example of all their superiors'? 
Could they, whose gods had almost all been powerful 
kings, and mighty conquerors they, who at that very 
time paid Divine honors to the emperors of Rome, 
whose only title to deification was the imperial pow- 
er could they, I say, reconcile their ideas to a cruci- 
fied Son of God, to a Redeemer of mankind on the 
cross ? Would they look there for him who is the 
image of the invisible God, the first-born of every 
creature; by whom and for whom were all things 
created that are in heaven, and that are in earth , 
whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principali- 
ties, or powers? Col. 1: 15, 16. No, most surely the 
natural man (to speak in the words of St. Paul, 
1 Cor. 2 : 14) received not these things, for they are 
foolishness to him ; neither could he know them, be- 
cause they are spiritually discerned. I may there- 
fore conclude, that in the enterprise of converting the 
Gentiles, St. Paul was to contend not only with the 
policy and power of the magistrates, and with the 
interest, credit, and craft of the priests, but also with 
the prejudices and passions of the people. 

4. I am next to show that ho was to expect no less 


opposition from the wisdom and pride of the philoso- 
phers. And though some may imaging that men 
who pretended to be raised and refined above vulgar 
prejudices and vulgar passions, would have been 
helpful to him in his design, it will be found upon 
examination, that instead of assisting or befriending 
the Gospel, they were its worst and most irreconcil- 
able enemies. For they had prejudices of their own 
still more repugnant to the doctrines of Christ than 
those of the vulgar, more deeply rooted, and more 
obstinately fixed in their minds. The wisdom upon 
which they valued themselves chiefly consisted in 
vain metaphysical speculations, in logical subtleties, 
in endless disputes, in high-flown conceits of the per- 
fection and self-sufficiency of human wisdom, IP 
dogmatical positiveness about doubtful opinions, or 
sceptical doubts about the most clear and certain 
truths. It must appear at first sight, that nothing 
could be more contradictory to the first principles oi 
the Christian religion than those of the atheistical, 
or sceptical sects, which at that tinie prevailed very 
*nuch both among the Greeks and the Romans; nor 
shall we fr<* that the theistical were much less at 
enmity witn it, when we consider the doctrines they 
held upon the nature of God and the soul. 

But I will not enlarge on a subject which the most 
learned Mr. Warburton handled so well. Div. Leg. 
1:3. If it were necessary to enter particularly into 
this argument, I could easily prove that there was not 
one of all the different philosophical sects then upon 
earth, not even the Platonics themselves, who are 
thought to favor it most, that did not maintain some 
opinions fundamentally contrary to those of the Gos 


pel. And in this they all agreed, to explode as most 
junphilosophical, and contrary to every notion that 
any among them maintained, that great article of the 
Christian religion, upon which the foundations of it 
are laid, and without which St. Paul declares to his 
Iproselytes, their faith would be vain; 1 Cor. 15: 17. 
120; the resurrection of the dead with their bodies, of 
(which resurrection Christ was the first-born. Col. 1: 
I IS. Besides the contrariety of their tenets to those of 
the Gospel, the pride that was common to all the 
j philosophers, was of itself an almost invincible ob- 
stacle against the admission of the evangelical doc- 
jtrines calculated to humble that pride, and teach 
them, that professing themselves to be wise, they be- 
\caine fools. Rom. 1: 22. This pride was no less 
intractable, no less averse to the instructions of 
i Christ, or of his apostles, than that of the Scribes and 
Pharisees. St. Paul was therefore to contend, in his 
i enterprise of converting the Gentiles, with all the 
opposition that could be made to it by all the different 
i sects of philosophers. And how formidable an op- 
I position this was, let those consider who are ac- 
Iquainted from history with the great credit those 
j sects had obtained at that time in the world; a credit 
even superior to that of the priests. Whoever pre- 
i tended to learning or virtue was their disciple; the 
i greatest magistrates, generals, kings, ranged them- 
! selves under their discipline, were trained up in their 
schools, and professed the opinions they taught. 

All these sects made it a maxim not to disturb the 
| popular worship, or established religion; but under 
those limitations they taught very freely whatever 
i they pleased ; and no religious opinions were more 


warmly supported than those they delivered were by 
their followers The Christian religion at once over- 
turned their several systems, taught a morality more 
perfect than theirs, and established it upon higher and 
much stronger foundations ; mortified their pride, con- 
founded their learning, discovered their ignorance, 
ruined their credit. Against such an enemy, what 
would they not do ? Would not they exert the whole 
power of their rhetoric, the whole art of their logic, 
their influence over the people, their interest with the 
great, to discredit a novelty so alarming to them 
If St. Paul had had nothing to trust to but his owe 
natural faculties, his own understanding, knowledge, 
and eloquence, could he have hoped to be singly a 
match for all theirs united against him ? Could a 
teacher unheard of before, from an obscure and un- 
.earned part of the world, have with stood the autho- 
rity of Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, Zeno, Arcefilaus 
Carneades, and all the great names which held the 
first rank of human wisdom ? He might as well have 
attempted alone, or with the help of Barnabas, and 
Silas, and Timotheus, and Titus, to have erected \ 
monarchy upon the ruins of all the several states then 
in the world, as to have erected Christianity upon the 
destruction of all the several sects of philosophy which 
reigned in the minds of the Gentiles, among whom he 
preached, particularly the Greeks and the Romans. 

Having thus proved, as I think, that in the work of 
converting the Gentiles, St. Paul could have no assis- 
tance ; but was sure, on the contrary, of the utmost 
repugnance and opposition to it imaginable from the 
magistrates, from the priests, from the people, and from 
the philosophers ; it necessarily follows, that to sue- 


ceed in that work, he must have called in some extra- 
ordinary aid, some stronger power than that of reason 
and argument. Accordingly, we find, he tells the Co- 
rinthians, that his speech and preaching was not with 
enticing- 'words of man's wisdom, but in demonstra- 
tion of the Spirit, and of power. I Cor. 2 : 4. And 
to the Thessalonians he says, Oar Gospel came not 
unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the 
Holy Ghost. 1 Thess. 1:5. It was to the efficacy of 
the divine power that he ascrihed all his success in 
those countries, and wherever else he planted the Gos- 
pel of Christ. If that power really went with him, it 
would enable nim to overcome all those difficulties 
that obstructed his enterprise ; but then he was not 
n impostor, 

Our inquiry, therefore, must be, whether (supposing 
I him to have been an impostor) he could, by PRETENU- 
[ ING TO MIRACLES, have overcome all those difficulties, 
i and carried on his work with success ? Now, to give 
j miracles, falsely pretended to, any reputation, two cir- 
iicumstances are principally necessary an apt dispo- 
\sition in those whom fhey are designed to impose upon, 
land a powerful confederacy to carry on and abet the 
E cheat. Both these circumstances, or at least one of 

them, have always accompanied all the false miracles, 
[ancient and modern, which have obtained any credit 
1 1 among mankind. To both these was owing the gene- 
[ ral faith of the heathen world in oracles, auspices, 
i auguries, and other impostures, by which the priests, 
i combined with the magistrates, supported the national 
I worship and deluded a people prepossessed in their 

favor, an * willing to be deceived. Both the same caus- 

42 LYTTELTON O* [144 

es likewise cooperate in the belief that is given to 
Popish miracles among those of their own church. 
But neither of these assisted St, Paul. What prepos- 
session could there have been in the minds of the 
Gentiles, either in favor of him or the doctrines he 
taught ? Or, rather, what prepossessions could be 
stronger than those which they, undoubtedly, had 
against both ? If he had remained in Judea, it might 
have been suggested by unbelievers, that the Jews were 
a credulous people, apt to seek after miracles, and to 
afford them an easy belief: and that the fame of those 
said to be done by Jesus himself, and by his apostles, 
before Paul declared his conversion, had predisposed 
their minds, and warmed their imaginations, to the 
admission of others supposed to be wrought by the 
same power. 

The signal miracle of the apostles speaking with 
tongues on the day of Pentecost, had made three 
thousand converts ; that of healing the lame man at 
the gate of the temple, five thousand more. Acts, 2 ; j| 
41 ; 4 : 4. Nay, such was the faith of the multitude, 
that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and 
laid them on beds and couches, that at the least tin 
shadow of Peter passing by might overshadoio some 
cf them. Acts, 5 : 15. Here was, therefore, a go 
foundation laid for Paul to proceed upon in pretend- 
ing to similar miraculous works ; though the priests 
and the rulers were hardened against them, the peo- 
ple were inclined to give credit to them, and there was |j 
reason to hope for success among them both at Jeru- 
salem and in all the regions belonging to the Jews 
But no such dispositions were to be found in the Gen- 
tiles. There was among them no matter prepared for 


imposture to work upon, no knowledge of Christ, no 
thought of his power, or of the power of those who 
;ame in his name. Thus, when at Lystra, St. Paul 
healed the man who was a cripple from his birth. 
Acts, 14, so far were the people there from supposing 
that he could be able to do such a thing, as an apos- 
tle of Christ, or by any virtue derived from him, that 
they took Paul and Barnabas to be gods of their own, 
come down in the likeness of men, and would have 
sacrificed to them as such. 

Now, I ask, did the citizens of Lystra concur in this 
matter to the deceiving of themselves ? Were their 
imaginations overheated with any conceits of a mira- 
culous power belonging to Paul, which could dispose 
them to think he worked such a miracle when he did 
not '? As the contrary is evident, so in all other places 
to which he carried the Gospel, it may be proved to 
demonstration, that he could find no disposition, no 
aptness, no bias to aid his imposture, if the miracles, 
by which he every where confirmed his preaching, had 
not been true. 

On the other hand, let us examine whether, without 
the advantage of such an assistance, there was any 
confederacy strong enough to impose his false mira- 
cles upon the Gentiles, who were both unprepared and 
undisposed to receive them. The contrary is apparent 
He was in no combination with their priests or their 
magistrates ; no sect or party among them gave him 
any help ; all eyes were open and watchful to detect 
his impostures ; all hands ready to punish him as soon 
as detected. Had he remained in Judea, he would, 
at least, have had many confederates, all the apostles, 
! all the disciples of Christ, at that time pretty nume 

44 LYTTELTON ON [14-6 

rous ; but in preaching to the Gentiles, he was oftea 
alone, rarely with more than two or three companions 
or followers. Was this a confederacy powerful enougi 
to carry on such a cheat, in so many different parts of 
the world, against the united opposition of the magis- 
trates, priests, philosophers, people, all combined 
detect and expose their frauds ? 

Let it be also considered, that those upon whom 
they practiced these arts were not a gross or ignorant 
people, apt to mistake any uncommon operations of 
nature, or juggling tricks, for miraculous acts. The 
churches planted by St. Paul were in the most en- 
lightened parts of the world: among the Greeks oi 
Asia and Europe, among the Romans, in the midst 
of science, philosophy, freedom of thought, and in 
an age more inquisitively curious into the powers oi 
nature, and less inclined to credit religious frauds than 
Jiny before it. Nor were they only the lowest of the 
people that he converted. Sergius Paulus, the pro- 
consul of Paphos ; Erastus, chamberlain of Corinth 
and Dionysius, the Areopagite, were his proselytes. 

Upon the whole, it appears beyond contradictio 
that his pretension to miracles was not assisted by ti 
disposition of those whom he designed to convert by 
those means, nor by any powerful confederacy to car- 
ry on, and abet the cheat, without both which concur- 
ring circumstances, or one at least, no such pretension 
was ever supported with any success. 

Both these circumstances concurred even in the 
late famous miracles supposed to be done at Abbe 
Paris's tomb. They had not indeed the support of 
the rovernment, and for that reason appear to deserve 
more attention than other Popish miracles ; but they 


h; I 

147] CONVERSION or PAUL. 45 

were supported by all the Jansenists, a very powerful 
.and numerous party in France, made up partly of 
wise and able men, partly of bigots and enthusiasts. 
All these confederated together to give credit to mi- 
racles, said to be worked in behalf of their party ; and 
those who believed them were strongly disposed to 
that belief. And yet, with these advantages, how 
easily were they suppressed ! Only by walling up 
that part of the church where the tomb of the saint, 
who was supposed to work them, was placed ! Soon 
after this was done, a paper was fixed on the wall 
with this inscription : 

De par le roy defense a Dieu 
De faire miracle en ce lieu. 

By command of the king, God is forbidden to 
work any more miracles here. The pasquinade was 
a witty one, but the event turned the point of it 
against the party by which it was made : for if God 
had really worked any miracles there, could this ab- 
surd prohibition have taken effect ? Would he have 
suffered his purpose to be defeated by building a 
wall? When all the apostles were shut up in prison 
to hinder their working of miracles, the angel of the 
Lord opened the prison doors, and let them out. Acts, 
5 : 16-26. But the power of Abbe Paris could neither 
throw down the wall that excluded his votaries, nor 
operate through that impediment. And yet his mira- 
cles are often compared with, and opposed by unbe- 
lievers to those of Christ and his apostles, which is 
the reason of my having taken this particular notice 
of them here. But to go back to the times nearer to 
St. Paul's. 


There is in Lucian an account of a very extraordi- 
nary and successful imposture carried on in his days, 
by one Alexander of Pontus, who introduced a new 
god into that country, whose prophet he called him- 
self, and in whose name he pretended to miracles, 
and delivered oracles, by which he acquired great 
wealth and power. All the arts by which this cheat 
was managed are laid open by Lucian, and nothing 
can better point out the difference between imposture 
and truth, than to observe the different conduct of this 
man and St. Paul. Alexander made no alteration in 
the religion established in Pontus before ; he only 
grafted his own upon it ; and spared no pains to in- j 
terest in the success of it the whole heathen priest- 
hood, not only in Pontus, but all over the world, send- 
ing great numbers of those who came to consult him 
to other oracles, that were at that time in the highest 
vogue ; by which means he engaged them all to sup- 
port the reputation of his, and abet his imposture. He 
spoke with the greatest respect of all the sects of phi- 
losophy, except the Epicureans, who from their prin- 
ciples he was sure would deride and oppose his fraud 
for though they presumed not to innovate, and over- 
turn established religions, yet they very freely attack- 
ed and exposed all innovations that were introduced 
under the name of religion, and had not the authority 
of a legal establishment. To get the better of their 
opposition, as well as that of the Christians, he called 
in the aid of persecution and force, exciting the people 
against them, and answering objections with stones. 

That he might be sure to get money enough, he de- 
livered this oracle in the name of his god : / command 
vou to grace Kith gifts my prophet and minister ; 


for I have no regard for riches myself ] but the great- 
est for my prophet. And he shared the gains that he 
made, which were immense, among an infinite num- 
ber of associates, and instruments, whom he employed 
in carrying on and supporting his fraud. When any 
declared themselves to be his enemies, against whom 
he durst not proceed by open force, he endeavored to 
gain them by blandishments ; and having got them into 
his power, to destroy them by secret ways ; which arts 
he practiced against Lucian himself. Others he kept 
in awe and dependence upon him, by detaining in 
his own hands the written questions they had pro- 
posed to his god upon state affairs ; and as these ge- 
nerally came from men of the greatest power and 
rank, his being possessed of them was of infinite ser- 
vice to him, and made him master of all their credit, 
and of no little part of their wealth. 

He obtained the protection and friendship of Ruti- 
lianus, a great Roman general, by flattering him with 
promises of a very long life, and exaltation to deity af- 
ter his death ; and at last having quite turned his head, 
enjoined him by an oracle to marry his daughter, whom 
he pretended to have had by the moon : which com- 
mand Rutilianus obeyed, and by his alliance secured 
this impostor from any danger of punishment ; the 
Roman governor of Bithynia and Pontus excusing 
himself on that account from doing justice upon him, 
when Lucian and several others offered themselves to 
be his accusers. 

He never quitted that ignorant and barbarous coun- 
try, which he had made choice of at first as the fittest 
place to play his tricks in undiscovered ; but residing 
himself among those superstitious and credulous peo- 


pie, extended his fame to a great distance by the emis- 
saries which he employed all over the world, espe- 
cially at Rome, who did not pretend themselves to 
work any miracles, but only promulgated his, snd 
gave him intelligence of all that it was useful for him 
to know. 

These were the methods by which this remarkable 
fraud was conducted, every one of which is directly 
opposite to all those used by St. Paul in preaching 
the Gospel; and yet such methods alone could give 
success to a cheat of this kind. I will not mention the 
many debaucheries and wicked enormities committed 
by this false prophet, under the mask of religion, which 
is another characteristic difference between him and 
St. Paul ; nor the ambiguous answers, cunning eva- 
sions, and juggling artifices which he made use of, in 
all which it is easy to see the evident marks of an im- 
posture, as well as in the objects he plainly appears to 
have had in view. That which I chiefly insist upon is, 
the strong confederacy with which he took care to sup- 
port his pretension to miraculous powers, and the apt 
disposition in those he imposed upon to concur and 
assist in deceiving themselves ; advantages entirely 
wanting to the apostle of Christ. 

From all this it may be concluded, that no human 
means employed by St. Paul, in his design of convert- 
ing the Gentiles, were, or could be adequate to the 
great difficulties he had to contend with, or to the suc- 
cess tin i*. we know attended his work ; and we can in 
reason ascribe that success to no other cause but the 
power oi Orod going along with, and aiding his minis- 
try, becauso no other was equal to the effect. 


II. Paul not an Entlxnsiasi . 

Having then shown that St. Paul had no rational 
motives to become an apostle of Christ, without being 
himself convinced of the truth of that Gospel he 
preached ; and that, had he engaged in such an impos- 
ture, without any rational motives, he would have had 
no possible means to carry it on with any success : 
having also brought reasons of a very strong nature; 
to make it appear that the success he undoubtedly had 
in preaching the Gospel, was an effect of the divine 
power attending his ministry, I might rest all my proof 
of the Christian religion, being a divine revelation, 
upon the arguments drawn from this head alone. But 
to consider this subject in all possible lights, I shall 
pursue the proposition which I set out with, through 
rnch of its several parts ; and having proved, as I hope, 
to the conviction of any impartial man, that St. Paul 
was not an impostor, who said what he knew to be 
false, with an intent to deceive, I come next to consi- 
der whether he was an enthusiast, who, by the force 
of an overheated imagination imposed upon himself. 
Now, these are the ingredients of which enthusiasm 
| is generally composed : great heat of temper, melan- 
| cholij, ignorance, credulity, and vanity, or self-con- 
ceit. That the first of these qualities, was in St. Paul, 
may be concluded from that fervor of zeal with which 
| he acted, both as a Jew and Christian, in maintaining 
I that which he thought to be right ; and hence, I sup- 
i pose, as well as from the impossibility of his having 
been an impostor, some unbelievers have chosen to 
consider him as an enthusiast. But this quality alone 
| will not be sufficient to prove him to have been so in 


the opinion of any reasonable man. The same tem- 
per has been common to others, who undoubtedly were 
not enthusiasts ; to the Gracchi, to Cato, to Brutus, 
to many more among the best and wisest of men. Nor 
does it appear that this disposition had such a mastery 
over the mind of St. Paul that he was not able, at all 
times, to rule and control it by the dictates of reason. 
On the contrary, he was so much the master of it, as, 
in matters of an indifferent nature, to become all things 
to all men ; 1 Cor. 9 : 20 22 ; bending his notions 
and manners to theirs, so far as his duty to God would 
permit, with the most pliant condescension ; a conduct 
neither compatible with the stiffness of a bigot, nor 
the violent impulses of fanatical delusions. His zeal 
was eager and warm, but tempered with prudence 
and even with the civilities and decorums of life, as 
appears by his behavior to Agrippa, Festus, and Fe- 
lix; not the blind, inconsiderate, indecent zeal of an 

Let us now see if any one of those other qualities 
which I have laid down, as disposing the mind to en- 
thusiasm, and as being characteristical of it, belong tc 
St. Paul. First, as to melancholy, which of all dis- 
positions of body or mind, is most prone to enthusiasm 
it neither appears by his writings, nor by any thing tole 
of him in the Acts of the Apostles, nor by any other 
evidence, that St. Paul was inclined to it more than 
other men. Though he was full of remorse for hia 
former ignorant persecution of the church of Christ 
we read of no gloomy penances, no extravagant mor- 
tification, such as the Brahmins, the Jaugues, the 
monks of La Trappe, and other melancholy enthusi- 
asts inflict on themselves. His holiness only consisted 


in the simplicity of a good life, and the unwearied per- 
formance of those apostolical duties to which he was 
called. The sufferings he met with on that account, 
he cheerfully bore, and even rejoiced in them for the 
love of Jesus Christ; hut he brought none on himself ; 
we find, on the contrary, that he pleaded the privilege 
of a Roman citizen to avoid being whipped. 1 could 
mention more instances of his having used the best 
methods that prudence could suggest, to escape dan- 
ger, and shun persecution, whenever it could be done 
without betraying the duty of his office or the honor 
of God. 

A remarkable instance of this appears in his con- 
duct among the Athenians. There was at Athens a 
law which made it a capital offence to introduce or 
teach any new gods in their state. Acts, 17, and Jose- 
phus cont. Apion. 1. 2 : c. 7. Therefore, when Paul 
was preaching Jesus and the resurrection to the Athe- 
nians, seme of them carried him before the court of 
Areopagus, (the ordinary judges of criminal matters, 
and in a particular manner entrusted with the care of 
religion,) as having broken this law, and being a set- 
ter forth of strange gods. Now, in this case, an im- 
postor would have retracted his doctrine to save his 
life, and an enthusiast would have lost his life with- 
out trying to save it by innocent means. St. Paul did 
neither the one nor the other; he availed himself of 
an altar which he had found in the city, inscribed to 
the unknown God, and pleaded that he did not pro- 
pose to them the worship of any new God, but only 
explain to them one whom their government had al- 
ready received ; whom therefore ye ignorantly wor- 
ship, him. declare I unto you. By this he avoided the 


law, and escaped being condemned by the Areopagus, 
without departing in the least from the truth of the 
Gospel, or violating the honor of God. An admira- 
ble proof, in my opinion, of the good sense with which 
he acted, and one that shows there was no mixture of 
fanaticism in his religion. 

Compare with this the conduct of Francis of Assisi 
of Ignatius Loyola, and other enthusiasts sainted b} 
Rome, it will be found the reverse of St Paul's. "He 
wished indeed to die and be with Christ ;" but such 
a wish is no proof of melancholy, or of enthusiasm ; 
it only proves his conviction of the divine truths he 
preached, and of the happiness laid up for him in those 
blessed abodes which had been shown to him even in 
this life. Upon the whole, neither in his actions, nor 
in the instructions he gave to those under his charge, 
is there any tincture of melancholy ; which yet is so 
essential a characteristic of enthusiasm, that I have 
scarce ever heard of any enthusiast, ancient or mo- 
dern, in whom some very evident marks of it did not 

As to ignorance, which is another ground of enthu- 
siasm, St. Paul was so far from it, that he appears to 
have been master not of the Jewish learning alone, but 
of the Greek. And this is one reason why he is less 
liable to the imputation of having been an enthusiast 
than the other apostles, though none of them were 
such any more than he, as may by other arguments be 
invincibly proved. 

I have mentioned credulity as another characteristic 
and cause of enthusiasm, which, that it was not in St. 
Paul, the history of his life undeniably shows. For 
on the contrary, he seems to have been slow and hard 

155] CONVERSION or PAUL. 53 

of belief in the extremes! degree, having paid no re- 
[gard to all the miracles done by our Savior, the fame 
of which he could not be a stranger to, as he lived in 
j Jerusalem, nor to that signal one done after his resur- 
I rection, and in his name, by Peter and John, upon the 
lame man at the beautiful gate of the temple : nor to 
the evidence given in consequence of it by Peter, in 
presence of the high-priest, the rulers, elders, and 
scribes, that Christ was raised from the dead. Acts 5 
1 3. He must also have known that when all the apos- 
\ ties had been shut up in the common prison, and th e 
| high-priest, the council, and all the senate of the chil- 
dren of Israel had sent their officers to bring them 
\before them, the officers came and found them, not in 
I prison, but returned and made this report : " The 
Iprison truly found we shut with all safety, and the 
\keepers standing without before the doors, but when 
\we had opened we found no man within" And that 
the council was immediately told, that the men they 
\had put in prison were standing in the temple, and 
I teaching the people. And that being- brought from 
\ thence before the council, they had spoke these memo- 
jrable words, " We ought to obey God rather than 
\rnen. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom 
lye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalt- 
ed with his right hand to be a Prince and a Savior, 
for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of 
\sins. And we are his witnesses of these things, and 
j/fo is also the Holy Ghost, whom God has given to 
[them that obey him." Acts, 5 : 18-32. All this he re- 
sisted, and was consenting to the murder of Stephen, 
who preached the same thing, and evinced it by mira- 
cles. Acts, 8 : 1. So that his rnind, far from being 

54 LYtTELTON ON [156 

disposed to a credulous faith, or a too easy reception 
of any miracle worked in proof of the Christian reli- 
gion, appears to have been barred against it by the 
most obstinate prejudices, as much as any man's could 
possibly be; and from hence we may fairly conclude, 
that nothing less than the irresistible evidence of hia 
civil senses, clear from all possibility of doubt, could 
have overcome his unbelief. 

Fanily or self-conceit is another circumstance that, 
for the most part, prevails in the character of an en- 
thusiast. It leads men of a warm temper, and religious 
turn, to think themselves worthy of the special regard 
and extraordinary favors of God ; and the breath of that 
inspiration to which they pretend is often no more 
than the wind of this vanity, which puffs them up to 
such extravagant imaginations. This strongly appears 
in the writings and lives of some enthusiastical here- 
tics ; in the mystics, both ancient and modern; in many 
founders of orders arid saints, both male and female, 
amongst the Papists, in several Protestant sectaries of 
the last age, and even in some at the present time.* 
All the divine communications, illuminations, and ec- 
stacies to which they have pretended, evidently sprung 
from much self-conceit, working together .with the va- 
pors of melancholy upon a warm imagination. And 
this is one reason, besides the contagious nature of 
melancholy, or fear, that makes enthusiasm so very 
catching among weak minds. Such are most strongly 

* See the account of Montanus and his followers, the writings 
of the counterfeit Dionysius the Areopagite, Santa Theresa, 
tSt. Catherine of Sienna, Madame Bourignon, the lives of St. 
Francis of Assisi, and Ignatius Loyola ; see also an account of 
the lives of George Fox, and of Rice Evans. 

157] cONvrasioN OF fAti* 65 

disposed to vanity; and when they see others pretend 
to extraordinary gifts, are apt to flatter themselves that 
they may partake of them as well as those whose me- 
rit they think no more than their own* Vanity, there- 
fore, may justly be deemed a principal source of en^ 
thusiasm. But that St. Paul was as free from it as any 
man, I think may be gathered from all that we see in 
his writings, or know of his life. Throughout his epis* 
lies there is not one word that savors of vanity ; nor is 
any action recorded of him in which the least mark 
of it appears. 

In his epistle to the Ephesians, he calls himself less 
than the least of all saints. Ephes. 3 : 8. And to the 
Corinthians he says, he is the least of the apostles ^ 
find not meet to be called an apostle, because he had 
persecuted the church of God. I Cor. 15 : 9. In his 
epistle to Timothy he says : " This is a faithful say- 
ing, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus 
came into the world to save sinners, of whom / am 
chief. Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that 
in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all long- 
suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter 
I believe in him to life everlasting." 1 Tim. 1 : 15, 16. 

It is true, indeed, that in another epistle he tells the 
iCorinthians that he was not a whit behind the very 
chief est of the apostles. 2 Cor. 11 : 5. But the occa- 
sion which drew from him these words must be eon- 
jsidered. A false teacher by faction and calumny had 
ibrought his apostleship to be in question among the 
iCorinthians. Against such an attack, not to have as- 
tserted his apostolical dignity, would have been a be- 
traying of the office and duty committed to him by 
God, He was therefore constrained to do himself jua- 

36 LYTTIOLTO!* 0* [158 

tice, and not let down that character, upon the autho- 
rity of which th whole success and efficacy of his 
ministry among them depended. But how did he do 
it? Not with that wantonness which a vain man in- 
dulges, when he can get any opportunity of commend- 
ing himself; not with a pompous detail of all the amaz- 
ing miracles which he had performed in different parts 
of the world, though he had so fair an occasion of do- 
ing it ; but with a modest and simple exposition of his 
abundant labors and sufferings in preaching the Cos- 
pel, and barely reminding them, " that the signs of an 
apostle had been wrought among them in all patience 
in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds." 2 Cor. 12 
12. Could he say less than this ? Is not such boast 
hig humility itself 7 And yet for this he makes many 
apologies, expressing the greatest uneasiness in being 
obliged to speak thus of himself, even in his own vin 
dication. 2 Cor. 11 : 1-16; 19-30. When in the same 
epistle, and for the same purpose, he mentions the vi 
sion he had of heaven, how modestly does he do it 
Not in his own name, but in the third person, I knew 
a man in Christ, <fc. caught up into the third hea- 
ven. 2 Cor. 12 : 2. And immediately after he adds 
but now I forbear, lest any man slwuld think of me 
above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth 
of me. 2 Cor. 12 : 6. How contrary is this to a spirit 
of vanity ! how different from the practice of enthusi- 
astic pretenders to raptures and visions, who never 
think they can dwell long enough upon those subjects, 
but fill whole volumes with their accounts of them] 
Yet St. Paul is not satisfied with this forbearance ; he 
adds the confession of some infirmity, which he tell* I 
the Corinthians was given to him as an allay, that he 


might not be above measure exalted, through the 
abundance oj his revelations. 2 Cor. 12 : 7. I would 
also observe, that he says this rapture, or vision of 
paradise, happened to him above fourteen years before. 
Now, had it been the effect of a mere enthusiastieai 
fancy, can it be supposed that in so long a period of 
time he would not have had many more raptures of 
the sKime kind ? would not his imagination have been 
perpetually carrying him to heaven, as we find St. 
Theresa, St. Bridget, and St. Catharine were carried 
by theirs ? And if vanity had been predominant in him, 
would he have remained fourteen years in absolute si- 
lence upon so great a mark of the divine favor? No, 
we should certainly have seen his epistles filled with 
nothing else but long accounts of these visions, con- 
ferences with angels, with Christ, with God Almigh- 
ty, mystical unions with God, and all that we read in 
the works of those sainted enthusiasts, whom I have 
mentioned before. But he only mentions this vision 
in answer to the false teacher who had disputed his 
apostolical power, and comprehends it all in three sen- 
tences, with many excuses for being compelled to make 
any mention of it at all. 2 Cor. 12 : 1-11. Nor does 
he take any merit to himself, even from the success of 
those apostolical labors which he principally boasts of 
in his epistle. For in a former one to the same church 
he writes thus, "Who then is Paul, and who is Apol- 
los, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the 
Lord gave to every man ? I have planted, Apollos wa- 
tered, but God gave the increase. So then, neither is 
he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth, 
but God that giveth the increase." And in another 
place of the same epistle he says, " by the grace of 

68 I.YTTILTON OX [160 

God I am what I am, and his grace which was be- 
stowed upon me was not in vain, but I labored more 
abundantly than they all : yet not I, but the grace of 
God which was with me." 1 Cor. 15 : 10. 

I think- it needless to give more instances of the 
modesty of St. Paul. Certain I am, not one can be 
given that bears any color of vanity, or that vanity in 
particular which so strongly appears in all enthusi- 
asts, of setting their imaginary gifts above those vir- 
tues which make the essence of true religion, and the 
real excellency of a good man, or in the Scripture 
phrase, of a saint. In his first Epistle to the Corin- 
thians he has these words, " Though I speak with the 
tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, 
I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 
And though I have the gift of prophecy, and under- 
stand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though 
I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, 
and have not charity, I am nothing. And though 
I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I 
give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it 
profiteth me nothing. " 1 Cor. 13 : 24. Is this the 
language of enthusiasm? Did ever enthusiast prefer 
that universal benevolence which comprehends all 
moral virtues, and which (as appears by the following 
verses) is meant by charity here; did ever enthusiast, 
I say, prefer that benevolence to faith and to mira- 
cles, to those religious opinions which he had em- 
braced, and to those supernatural graces and gifts 
which he imagined he had acquired, nay even to the 
merit of martyrdom ? Is it not the genius of enthusi- 
asm to set moral virtues infinitely below the merit of 
faith ; and of all moral virtues, to value that leatt j 


which is most particularly enforced by St. Paul, a 
spirit of candor, moderation, and peace ? Certaii^ly^^r 
neither the temper, nor the opinions of a man subject 
to fanatical delusions, are to be found in this pas- 
sage ; but it may be justly concluded, that he who 
could esteem the value of charity so much above mi- 
raculous gifts, could not have pretended to any such 
gifts if he had them not in reality. 

Since, then, it is manifest from the foregoing ex- 
amination, that in St. Paul's disposition and character 
those qualities do tiot occur which seem to be neces- 
sary to form an enthusiast, it must be reasonable 
to conclude he was none. But allowing, for argu- 
ment's sake, that all those qualities were to be found 
in him, or that the heat of his temper alone could be 
a sufficient foundation to support such a suspicion; 
1 shall endeavor to prove that he COULD NOT HAVE IM- 
POSED ON HIMSELF by any power of enthusiasm, either 
in regard to the miracle that caused his conversion, 
or to the consequential effects of it, or to some other 
circumstances which he bears testimony to in his 

The power of imagination in enthusiastical minds 
is no doubt very strong, but it always acts in confor- 
mity to the opinions imprinted upon it at the time of 
its working ; and can no more act against them, than 
a rapid river can carry a boat against the current of 
its own stream. Now. nothing can be more certain 
than that when Saul set out for Damascus, with an 
authority from the chief priests to bring the Chris- 
tians which were there, bound to Jerusalem, Acts, 
12 : 2, an authority solicited by himself, and granted 


to him at his own earnest desire, his mind was strong- 
ly possessed with opinions against Christ and his fol- 
lowers. To give those opinions a more active force, 
his passions at that time concurred, being inflamed 
in the highest degree by the iiritating consciousness 
of his past conduct towards them, the pride of sup- 
porting a part he had voluntarily engaged in, and the 
credit he found it procured him among the chief priests 
and rulers, whose commission he bore. 

If in such a state and temper of mind, an enthusi- 
astical man had imagined he saw a vision from 
heaven denouncing the anger of God against the 
Christians, and commanding him to persecute them 
without any mercy, it might be accounted for by the 
natural power of enthusiasm. But that, in the very 
instant of his being engaged in the fiercest and hot- 
test persecution against them, no circumstance hav- 
ing happened to change his opinions, or alter the bent 
of his disposition, he should at once imagine himself 
called by a heavenly vision to be the apostle of 
Christ, whom but a moment before he deemed an im- 
postor and a blasphemer, that had been jusily put to 
death on the cross, is in itself wholly incredible, and 
so far from being a probable effect of enthusiasm, that 
just a contrary effect must have been naturally pro- 
duced by that cause. The warmth of his temper 
carried him violently another way ; and whatever de- 
lusions his imagination could raise to impose on his 
reason, must have been raised at that time agreeable 
to the notions imprinted upon it, and by which it was 
heated to a degree of enthusiasm, not in direct con- 
tradiction to all those notions, while they remained in 
their full force 


This is so clear a proposition, that I might rest the 
whole argument entirely upon it ; hut still farther to 
show that this vision could not be a phantom of St. 

Caul's own creating, I beg leave to observe, that he 
was not alone when he saw it ; there were many 
others in company, whose minds were no better dis- 
posed than his to the Christian faith. Could it be 

)ossible, that the imaginations of all these men should 
at the same time be so strangely affected as to make 

hem believe that they saw a great light shining 
about them, above the brightness of the sun at noon- 
day, and heard the sound of a voice from heaven, 

hough not the words which it spake, Acts, ;J : 3 ; 
22: 9, when in reality they neither saw nor lizard 
ii\y such thing? Could they be so infatuated witi? 

his conceit of their fancy, as to fall down together 
wiih Saul, and be speechless through fear, Acts, 26: 
14. 9: 7, when nothing had happened extraordinary 
sither to them or to him? Especially, considering 

hat this apparition did not happen in the night, when 

he senses are more easily imposed upon, but at mid- 
day. If a sudden frenzy had seized upon Saul, from 
any distemper of brdy or mind, can we suppose his 
whole company, men of different constitutions and 
understandings, to have been at once affected in the 
same manner with him, so that not the distemper 
alone, but the effects of it should exactly agree? If 

ill had gone mad together, would not the frenzy of 
some have taken a different turn, and presented to 
them different objects? This supposition is so con- 

rary to nature and all possibility, that unbelief must 

ind some other solution, or give up the point. 
I shall suppose then, in order to try to account for 


this vision without a miracle, that as Saul and his 
company were journeying along in their way to 
Damascus an extraordinary meteor did really happen, 
which cast a great light, as some meteors will do, 
at which they, being affrighted, fell to the ground 
in the manner related. This might be possible ; 
and fear, grounded on ignorance of such phenomena, 
might make them imagine it to be a vision of God. 
Nay, even the voice or sound they heard in the air, 
might be an explosion attending this meteor ; or at 
least there are those who would rather recur to such 
a supposition as this, however incredible, than ac- 
knowledge the miracle. But. how will this account 
for the distinct words heard by St. Paul, to which he 
made answer? How will it account for what follow- 
ed upon it when he came to Damascus, agreeably to 
the sense of those words which he heard? How 
came Ananias to go to him there and say, "He was 
chosen by God to know his will, and see that just 
One, and hear the voice of his mouth?" Acts, 22: 
] A. 26: 16. Or why did he propose to him to bt 
baptized? What connection was there between the 
meteor which Saul had seen, and these words of 
Ananias? Will it be said that Ananias was skilful 
enough to take advantage of the fright he was in at 
that appearance, in order to make him a Christian ? 
But could Ananias inspire him with the vision 
which he saw him before he came ? If that vision wa 
the effect of imagination, how was it verified so ex 
actly in fact? Acts, 9. But allowing that he drean 
by chance of Ananias' coming, and that Anania 
came by chance too; or, if you please, that bavin 
heard of his dream, he came to take advantage of that 


as well as of the meteor which Saul had seen ; will 
this get over the difficulty ? No, there was more to 
be done. Saul was struck blind, and had been so for 
lliree days. Now, had this blindness been natural from 
the effects of a meteor or lightning upon him, it would 
not have been possible for Ananias to heal it, as we 
find that he did, merely by putting his hands on him 
and speaking a few words. Acts, 9 : 17, 13. 22 : 13. 
This undoubtedly surpassed the power of nature; 
and if this was a miracle, it proves the other to have 
been a miracle too, and a miracle done by the same 
Jesus Christ. For Ananias, when he healed Saul, 
spoke to him thus : Brother Saul, the Lord, even 
Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou 
earnest^ has sent me, that thou mightest receive thy 
sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. Acts, 9: 17. 
And that he saw Christ both now and after this time, 
appears not only by what he relates, Acts, 27: 17, 18, 
but by other passages in his epistles. 1 Cor. 9 : 1 ; 15 : 
8. From him, as he asserts in many places of his 
epistles, he learned the Gospel by immediate reve- 
lation, and by him he was sent to the Gentiles. Acts, 
22: 21; 22: 11. Among those Gentiles from Jeru- 
salem, and round about to lUiricum, he preached the 
Gospel of Christ, with mighty signs and wonders, 
wrought by the power of the Spirit of God, to make 
them obedient to his preaching, as he himself testi- 
fies in his epistle to the Romans; Rom. 15: 19; and 
of which a particular account is given to us in the 
Acts of the Apostles; signs and wonders, indeed, 
above any power of nature to work, or of imposture 
to counterfeit, or of enthusiasm to imagine. Now, 
does not such a series of miraculous acts, all consa- 

54 Li"Tll.TON :N [i6n 

qaential and dependent upon the first revelation, put 
t^e truth of that revelation beyond all possibility of 
doubt or deceit ? And if he could so have imposed 
on himself as to think that he worked thorn when he 
did not, (which supposition cannot be admitted, if he 
was not at that time quite out of his senses,) how could 
so distempered an enthusiast make such a progress, 
^.s we know that he did, in converting the Gentile 
world? If the difficulties which have been shown to 
have obstructed that work, were such as the ablest 
impostor could not overcome, how much more insur- 
mountable were they to a madman? 

It is a much harder task for unbelievers to account 
for the success of St. Paul, in preaching the Gospel, 
upon the supposition of his having been an enthusi- 
ast, than of his having been an impostor. Neither of 
these suppositions can ever account for it ; but the 
impossibility is more glaringly strong in this case 
than in the other. I could enter into a particular ex- 
amination of all the miracles recorded in the Acts to 
have been done by St. Paul, and show that they were 
not of a nature in which enthusiasm, either in him, or 
the persons he worked them upon, or the spectators, 
could have any part. I will mention only a few. 
When he told Elymas the sorcerer, at Paphos, before 
the Roman deputy, that the hand of God uas upon 
him, and he should be blind, not seeing- the sun for 
a season ; and immediately there fell on him a mist 
and a darkness, and he went about seeking some to 
lead him by the hand, Acts, 13, had enthusiasm in 
the doer or sufferer any share in this act ? If Paul, as 
an enthusiast, had thrown out this menace, and the 
effect had not followed, instead of converting the de- 

167] COtf.ERSiO.N OF PAUL. 63 

ymty, as we are told that he did, he would have drawn 
on himself his rage and contempt. But the effect -up- 
on Elymas could not be caused by enthusiasm in 
Paul, much less can it be imputed to an enthusiastic 
belief in that person himself, of his being struck blind, 
when he was not, by these words of a man whose 
preaching he strenuously and bitterly opposed. Nor 
can we ascribe the conversion of Sergius, which 
happened upon it, to any enthusiasm. A Roman 
/roconsul was not very likely to be an enthusiast ; 
but, had he been one, he must have been bigoted to 
his own gods, and so much the less inclined to be- 
lieve any miraculous power in St. Paul. When, at 
Troas, a young man named Entychus, fell down from 
a high window, while Paul was preaching, and was 
taken up dead, Acts, 20: 9, could any enthusiasm, 
wither in Paul or the congregation there present, make 
them believe, that by that apostle's falling upon him, 
and embracing him, he was restored to life? Or could 
he who was so restored contribute any thing to him- 
self, by any power of his own imagination? When, 
in the isle of Melita, where St. Paul was shipwreck- 
ed, there came a viper and fastened on his hand, which 
he shook off, and felt no harm, Acts, 28, was that an 
effect of enthusiasm ? An enthusiast might perhaps 
have been mad enough to hope for safety against the 
bite of a viper without any remedy being applied to it 5 
but would that hope have prevented his death ? Or were 
the barbarous islanders, to whom this apostle was an 
absolute stranger, prepared by enthusiasm to expect 
and believe that any miracle would be worked to pre- 
serve him? On the contrary, when they saw the 
viper hang to his hand, they said among themselves, 

(56 UYTTELTON ON fc 6b 

"No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he 
hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not tc 
live." I will add no more instances: these are suffi- 
cient to show that the miracles told of St. Paul can 
no more be ascribed to enthusiasm than to imposture. 

But moreover, the power of working miracles wa* 
not confined to St. Paul ; it was also communicated 
to the churches he planted in different parts of the 
world. In many parts of his first epistle he tells the 
Corinthians, 1 Cor. 12 : 4, 5, that they had among 
them many miraculous graces and gifts, and gives 
them directions for the more orderly use of them in 
their assemblies. Now, I ask, whether all that he 
said upon that head is to be ascribed to enthusiasm 7 
If the Corinthians knew that they had among them 
no such miraculous powers, they must have regarded 
the author of that epistle as a man out of his senses, 
instead of revering him as an apostle of God. 

If, for instance, a Quaker should, in a meeting of 
his own sect, tell all the persons assembled there, 
that to some among them was given the gift of heal- 
ing by the Spirit of God, to others the working ol 
other miracles, to others divers kinds of tongues; 
they would undoubtedly account him a madman, be- 
cause they pretend to no such gifts. If indeed they 
were only told by him that they were inspired by the 
{Spirit of God in a certain ineffable manner, which 
they alone could understand, but which did not dis- 
cover itself by any outward distinct operations of 
signs, they might mistake the impulse of enthusiasm 
for the inspiration of the Holy Ghost ; but they could 
not believe, against the conviction of their own 
minds tint they spoke tongues they did not speak, or 


healed distempers they did not heal, or worked other 
miracles when they worked none. If it be said the 
Corinthians might pretend to these powers, though 
the (Quakers do not, I ask whether, in that preten- 
sion, they were impostors, or only enthusiasts ? If 
they were impostors, and St. Paul was also such, 
how ridiculous was it for him to advise them, in an 
epistle writ only to them, and for their own use, not 
to value themselves too highly upon those gifts, to 
pray for one rather than another, and prefer charity to 
them all ! Do associates in fraud talk such a language 
to one another? But if we suppose their pretension 
to all those gifts was an effect of enthusiasm, let us 
consider how it was possible that he and they could 
be so cheated by that enthusiasm, as to imagine they 
had such powers when they had not. 

Suppose that enthusiasm could make a man think 
that he was able, by a word or a touch, to give sight 
to the blind, motion to the lame, or life to the dead ; 
would that conceit of his make the blind see, the 
lamj walk, or the dead revive? And if it did not, 
how could he persist in such an opinion ; or, upon his 
pers s ting, escape being shut up for a madman? But 
such a madness could not infect so many at once, as 
St. Paul supposes at Corinth to have been endowed 
with the gift of healing or any other miraculous pow- 
ers. One of the miracles which they pretended to 
was the speaking of languages they never had learn- 
ed; and St. Paul says, he possessed this gift more 
than they all. I Cor. 14 : 18. If this had been a de- 
of fancy, if they had spoke only gibberish, or 
unmeaning sounds, it would soon have appeared, 
they came to make use of it where it was ne- 


cessary, viz. in the converting of those who under 
stood not any language 1 they naturally spoke. St. 
Paul particularly, who 'traveled so far upon that de- 
sign, and had such occasion to use it, must soon have 
discovered that this imaginary gift of the spirit was 
no j? it at all, but a ridiculous instance of frenzy, 
- K icn had possessed both him and them. But, it 
*hose he spoke to in divers tongues understood what 
le said, and Were converted to Christ by that means, 
tow could it be a delusion? Of all the miracles re* 
orded in Scripture, none are more clear irom any 
Mssible imputation of being the effect of an enthusi- 
istic imagination than this: for how could any man 
hink that he had it, who had it not: or, if he did 
think so, not be undeceived when he came to put 
his gift to the proof? 

If, then, St. Paul and the church of Corinth were 
not deceived, in ascribing to themselves this miracu- 
lous power, but really had it, there is the strongest 
reason to think that neither were they deceived in 
the other powers to which they pretended, as the 
same Spirit which gave them that equally, could and 
probably Would give -them the others to serve the 
same holy ends for which that was given. And, by 
consequence, St. Paul was no enthusiast in what he 
wrote upon that head to the Corinthians, nor in other 
similar instances where he ascribes to himself, or to 
the churches he founded, any supernatural graces and 
gifts. Indeed, they who would impute to imagina- 
tion effects such as those which St. Paul imputes to 
the power of God attending his mission, must ascribe 
to -imagination the same omnipotence which he as- 
cribes to God, 


III. Paul not deceived by the fraud of others. 

Having thus, I flatter myself, satisfactorily shown 
that St. Paul could not be an enthusiast, who, by the 
force of an overheated imagination, imposed on him- 
self, I am next to inquire whether he was deceived 
by the fraud of others, and whether all that he said 
of himself can be imputed to the pow^r of that de- 
ceit? But I need say little ^o show the absurdity of 
this supposition. It was morally impossible for the 
disciples of Christ to conceive such a thought, as 
that of turning his persecutor into his apostle, and to 
do this by a fraud, in the very instant of his greatest 
fury against them and their Lord. But could they 
have been so extravagant as to conceive such a 
thought, it was physically impossible for them to exe- 
cute it in the manner we fjnd his conversion to have 
been effected. Could they produce a light in the air, 
which at mid-day was brighter than that of the sun ? 
Could they make Saul hear words from out of that 
light, Acts, 22 : 9, which were not heard by the rest 
of the company ? Could they make him blind for three 
days after that vision, and then make scales fall from 
off his eyes, and restore him to his sight by a word ? 
Beyond dispute, no fraud could do these things ; but 
much less still could the fraud of others produce those 
miracles, subsequent to his conversion, in which he 
was not passive, but active; which he did himself, 
und appeals to in his epistles as proofs of his divine 



I shall then take it for granted, that he was not de- 
ceived by the fraud of others, and that what he said 
of himself can no more be imputed to the power oi 
that deceit, than to wilful imposture, or to enthusi- 
asm : and then it follows, that what he related to 
have been the cause of his conversion, and to have 
happened in consequence of it, did all really happen ; 
and therefore the Christian religion is a divine re- 

That this conclusion is fairly and undeniably drawn 
from the premises, 1 think must be owned, unless some 
probable cause can be assigned to account for those 
facts so authentically related in the Acts of the Apos- 
tles, and attested in his epistles by St. Paul himself, 
other than any of those which I have considered ; and 
this I am confident cannot be done. It must be there- 
fore accounted for by the power of God. That God 
should work miracles for the establishment of a most 
holy religion, which from the insuperable difficulties 
that stood in the \vay of it, could not have established 
itself without such assistance, is no way repugnant to 
human reason : but that without any miracle such 
things should have happened, as no adequate natural 
causes can be assigned for, is what human reason can- 
iiot believe. 

To impute them to magic, or the power of demons, 
(which was the resource of the heathens and Jews 
against the notoriety of the miracles performed by 
Christ and his disciples,) is by no means agreeable to 
the notions of those who, in this age, disbelieve Chris- 


tianity. It will therefore be needless to show the weak- 
ness of that supposition : but that supposition itself is 
no inconsiderable argument of the truth of the facts. 
Next to the apostles and evangelists, the strongest 
witnesses of the undeniable force of that truth are 
Celsus and Julian, and other ancient opponents of the 
Christian religion, who were obliged to solve what 
they could not contradict, by such an irrational and 
absurd imagination. 

The dispute was not then between faith and reason, 
but between religion and superstition. Superstition 
ascribed to cabalistical names, or magical secrets, such 
operations as carried along with them evident marks 
of the divine power : religion ascribed them to God, 
and reason declared itself on that side of the question. 
Upon what grounds then can we now overturn that 
decision? Upon what grounds can we reject the un- 

I questionable testimony given by St. Paul, that he was 
called by God to be a disciple and apostle of Christ ? 
It has been shown, that we cannot impute it either to 
enthusiasm or fraud : how shall we then resist the 
conviction of such a proof? Does the doctrine he 

! Breached contain any precepts against the law of mo- 
rfility, that, natural law written by God in the hearts 
of mankind ? If it did, I confess that none of the argu- 
ments I have made use of could prove such a doctrine 
to come from him. But this is so far from being the 
case, that even those who reject Christianity as a di- 

ivine revelation, acknowledge the morals delivered by 
Christ and by his apostles to be worthy of God. Is it 
then on account of the mysteries in the Gospel that 

Ithe facts are denied, though supported by evidence 
which IB k.l other cases would be aUc'ved *o contain 


the clearest conviction, and cannot in this be rejected 
without reducing the mind to a state of absolute scep- 
ticism, and overturning those rules by which we juuge 
of all evidence, and of the truth or credibility of aJl 
other facts? But this is plainly to give up the use oi 
our understanding where we are able to use it most 
properly, in order to apply it to things of which it is 
not a competent judge. The motives and reasons upon 
which divine wisdom may think proper to act, as well 
as the manner in which it acts, must often lie out of 
the reach of our understanding ; but the motives and 
reasons of human actions, and the manner in which 
they are performed, are all in the sphere of human 
knowledge, and upon them we may judge, with a well 
grounded confidence, when they are fairly proposed 
to our consideration. 

It is incomparably more probable that a revelation 
from God, concerning the ways of his providence, 
should contain in it matters above the capacity of our 
minds to comprehend, than that St. Paul, or indeed 
any of the other apostles, should have acted, as we 
know that they did, upon any other foundations than 
certain knowledge of Christ's being risen from the 
dead ; or should have succeeded in the work they un- 
dertook, without the aid of miraculous powers. To 
the former of these propositions I may give my assent 
without any direct opposition of reason to my faith ; 
but in admitting the latter, I must believe against all 
those probabilities that are the rational grounds of 

Nor do they who reject the Christian religion be- 
cause of the difficulties which occur in its mysteries, 
consider how far that objection will go against other 


systems, ooth of religion and of philosophy, which they 
themselves profess to admit. There are in deism it- 
self, the most simple of all religious opinions, several 
difficulties, for which human reason can but ill ac- 
count ; which may therefore be not improperly styled 
articles of faith. Such is the origin of evil under the 
government of an all-good and all-powerful God ; a 
question so hard, that the inability of solving it in a 
satisfactory manner to their apprehensions, has driven 
some of the greatest philosophers into the monstrous 
and senseless opinions of manicheism and atheism. 
Such is the reconciling the prescience of God with 
ihe free-will of man, which after much thought on the 
subject, Mr. Locke fairly confesses he could not do,* 
though he acknowledged both ; and what Mr. Locke 
could not do, in reasoning upon subjects of a meta- 
physical nature, I am apt to think few men, if any, 
can hope to perform. 

Such is also the creation of the world at any sup- 
posed time, or the eternal production of it from God ; 
it being almost equally hard, according to mere philo- 
sophical notions, either to admit that the goodness of 
God could remain unexerted through all eternity be- 
tore the time of such a creation, let it be set back ever 
so far, or to conceive an eternal production, which 
words so applied, are inconsistent and contradictory 
terms ; the solution commonly given by a comparison 
to the emanation of light from the sun not being ade- 
quate to it, or just ; for light is a quality inherent in 
lire, emanating from it ; whereas matter is not a quali- 
ty inherent in or emanating from the divine essence, 

9 See his letter to Mr. Molyneux, p, 509. vol. & 


but of a different substance and nature ; .and if not in 
dependent and self-existing must have been created, 
by a mere act of the divine will ; and, if created, then 
not eternal, the idea of creation implying a time when 
the substance created did not exist. But if to get rid 
of this difficulty, we have recourse, as many of the an- 
cient philosophers had, to the independent existenct 
of matter, then we must admit two self-existing prin- 
ciples, which is quite inconsistent with genuine the- 
ism or natural reason. Nay, could that be admitted, it 
would not clear up the doubt, unless we suppose not 
only the eternal existence of matter, independent oi 
God, but that it was from eternity in the order and 
beauty we. see it in now, without any agency of the 
divine power ; otherwise the same difficulty will al- 
ways occur, why it was not before put into that order 
and state of perfection; or how the goodness of God 
could so long remain in a state of inaction, unexerted 
and unemployed. For were the time of such an ex- 
ertion of it put back ever so far, if, instead of five or 
six thousand years, we were to suppose millions of 
millions of ages to have passed since the world* was 
reduced out of a chaos, to an harmonious and regular 
form, still a whole eternity must have preceded that 
date, during which the divine attributes did not exert 
themselves in that beneficent work, so suitable to 
them, that the conjectures of human reason can find 
no cause for its being delayed. 

* By the world I do not mean this earth alone, but the whole 
material universe, with all its inhabitants. Even created spirits 
fall under the same reasoning; for they must also have had a 
beginning, and before that beginning an eternity must havt 


But because </f these difficulties, or any other that 
may occur in the, system of deism, no wise man will 
deny the being of God, or his infinite wisdom, good- 
ness, and power, which are proved by such evidence 
as carries the clearest and strongest conviction, and 
cannot be refused without involving the mind in far 
greater difficulties, even in downright absurdities and 
impossibilities. The only part, therefore, that can be 
taken, is to account in the best manner that our weak 
reason is able to do, for such seeming objections ; and 
where that foils, to acknowledge its weakness, and ac 
quiesce under the certainty that our very imperfec 
knowledge or judgment cannot be the measure of the 
divine wisdom, or the universal standard of truth. So 
likewise it is with respect to the Christian religion. 
Some difficulties occur in that revelation which human 
reason can hardly clear ; but as the truth of it stands 
upon evidence so strong and convincing that it cannot 
be denied without much greater difficulties than those 
that attend the belief of it, as I have before endeavor- 
ed to prove, we ought not to reject it upon such objec- 
tions, however mortifying they may be to our pride. 
That indeed would have all things made plain to r.s, 
but God has thought proper to proportion our know- 
ledge to our wants, not our pride. All that concerns 
our duty is clear ; and as to other points, either of na- 
tural or revealed religion, if he has left some obscuri- 
ties in them, is that any reasonable cause of complaint ? 
Not to rejoice in the benefit of what he has graciously 
allowed us to know, from a presumptuous disgust at 
our incapacity of knowing more, is as absurd as it 
would be to refuse to walk because we cannot fly. 

From the arrogant ignorance of metaphysical rea- 

76 Ll TTELTON O [178 

sowings, aiming at matters above our knowledge, arose 
all the speculative impiety, and many of the worst 
superstitions of the bM heathen world, before the Gos- 
pel was 'preached to bring men back again to the 
primitive faith ; and from the same source have since 
flowed some of the greatest corruptions of the evan- 
gelical truth/' and the most inveterate prejudices 
against it", an effect just as natural as for our ey<'? to 
grow weak, and even blind, by being strained to look 
at objects too distant, or not made for them to see. 

Are then our mte^ectuai faculties of no use in re- 
ligion? Yes, undoubtedly, of the most necessaiy use 
when rightly employed. The proper employment 
them is to distinguish its genuine doctrines from otln '>* 
erroneously or corruptly ascribed to it; to consider the 
importance and purport of them, with the 'connection 
they bear to one another ; but, first of all, to examine, 
with the strictest attention, the evidence by which 10- 
ligion is proved, internal as well as external. If the 
external evidence be convincingly strong, and there is 
no internal proof of its falsehood, but much to support 
and confirm its truth, then surely no difficulties ough; 
to prevent our giving a full assent and belief to it. It 
is our duty, indeed, to endeavor to find the best solu- 
tions we can to them ; but where no satisfactory ones 
are to be found, it is no less our duty to acquiesce with 
humility, and believe that to be right which we know 
is above us, and belonging to a wisdom superior to ours. 

Nor let it be said that this will be an argument for 
admitting all doctrines, however absurd, that may have 
been grafted upon the Christian faith : those which can 
plainly be proved not to belong to it, fall not under th 
iea*oning I Lave laid down ; (and certainly none du 


to it which contradict either our clear, intui- 
tive knowledge, or the evident principles and dictates 
of reason.} I speak only qf difficulties which attend 
the belief of the Gospel in some of its pure and es- 
sential doctrines, plainly and, evidently delivered there, 
which being made known to us by a revelation sup- 
ported by proofs that our reason ought to admit , and 
not being such things as it can certainly know to be 
false, must be received by .it as objects .of faith, though 
they are such as it could not have discovered by any 
natural means, and such as are difficult to be conceiv- 
ed, or satisfactorily explained by its limited powers. 
If the glorious light of the Gospel be sometimes over, 
cast with clouds of doubt, so is the light of our reason 
too. But shall we deprive ourselves of the advanta- 
^es of either, because those clouds cannot, perhaps, be 
entirely removed while we remain in this mortal life ? 
Shall we obstinately and frowardly shut our eyes 
ngainst that day-spring froin on high that has visit- 
ed us, because we are pot, as yet, able to bear the full 
blaze of his beams * Indeed, not even in heaven it- 
self, not in the honest state of perfection to whic.i a 
finite being can ever attain, will all the counsels of 
Providence, all the height and the depth of the infinite 
wisdom of God, be ever disclosed or understood, faith 
even then will be necessary, and there will be myste- 
feries which cannot be penetrated by the most exalted 
archangel, and truths which cannot be known by him 
otherwise than from revelation, or believed upon any 
other ground of assent than a.<submissive confidence in 
the divine wisdom. What then, shall man presume 
that his weak and narrow understanding is sufficient 
'o guide him into all truth, without any need of re??e- 



lation or /cttto ? Shall he complain that the ways of 
God are not like his ways, and past his finding out? 
True philosophy, as well as true Christianity, would 
teach us a wiser and modester part. It would teach 
us to be content within those bounds which God has 
assigned to us, casting down imaginations, and ever 
high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledg 
of God, and bringing into captivity every thought 
to the obedience of Christ. 2 Cor. 10 : 5. 






Author of the History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. 

BY R. WATSON, D. D. F. R. S. 

Bishop of Landaff, and Professor of Divinity in the Uciveriity of 


SIR : It would give me much uneasiness to be re- 
puted an enemy to free inquiry in religious matters, or 
as capable of being animated into any degree of per- 
sonal malevolence against those who differ from me in 
opinion. On the contrary, I look upon the right of 
private judgment, in every concern respecting God and 
ourselves, as superior to the control of human autho- 
rity ; and have ever regarcted free disquisition as the 
best means of illustrating the doctrine and establish- 
ing the truth of Christianity. Let the followers of 
Mahomed, and the zealots of the church of Rome, 
support their several religious systems by damping 
every effort of the human intellect to pry into the 
foundations of their faith ; but never can it become a 
Christian to be afraid of being asked "a reason of the 
hope that is in him ;" nor a Protestant to be studious 
of enveloping his religion in mystery and ignorance ; 
or to abandon that moderation by which she permits 
every individual et sentire qua velit, et qua sentlat 
dicer e : [both to think what he will, and to speak what 
he thinks.] 

It is not, sir, without some reluctance, that, under 
the influence of these opinions, I have prevailed upon 
myself to address these letters to you ; and you will 


attribute to the same motive my not having given you 
this trouble sooner. I had, moreover, an expectation 
that the task would have been undertaken by some 
person capable of doing greater justice to the subject, 
and more worthy of your attention. Perceiving, how- 
ever, that the two last chapters, the fifteenth in parti- 
cular, of your very laborious and classical history of 
the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, had 
made upon many an impression not at all advantageous 
to Christianity ; and that the silence of others, of the 
clergy especially, began to be looked upon as an ac- 
quiescence in what you had therein advanced, I have 
thought it my duty, with the utmost respect and good 
will towards you, to take the liberty of suggesting to 
your consideration a few remarks upon some of the 
passages which have been esteemed (whether you 
meant that they should be so esteemed or not) as pow- 
erfully militating against that revelation, which still is 
to many, what it formerly was " to the Greeks foolish- 
ness ;" but which we deem to be true, to " be the pow- 
er of God unto salvation to every one that believeth." 
To the inquiry, by what means the Christian faith 
obtained so remarkable a victory over the established 
religions of the earth, you rightly answer, by the evi- 
dence of the doctrine itself, and the ruling providence 
of its author. But, afterwards, in assigning to this as 
tonishing event Jive secondary causes, derived fron 
the passions of the human heart, and the general cir 
cumstances of mankind, you seem to some to have 
insinuated that Christianity, like other impostures 
might have made its way in the world, though its ori- 
gin had been as human as the means by which you 
suppose it was spread. It is no wish or intention of 


j| mine to fasten the odium of this insinuation upon you : 
II I shall simply endeavor to show that the causes you 
II produce, are either inadequate to the attainment of the 
I end proposed, or that their efficiency, great as you ima- 

I gine it, was derived from other principles than those 

II you have thought proper to mention. 

Your first cause is, " the inflexible, and, if you may 

I use the expression, the intolerant zeal of the Chris- 

II tians, derived, it is true, from the Jewish religion, but 
I purified from the narrow and unsocial spirit which, in- 
I stead of inviting, had deterred the Gentiles from ern- 
1 bracing the law of Moses." Yes, sir, we are agreed 
I that the zeal of the Christians was inflexible ; "neither 
I death, nor life, nor principalities, nor powers, nor 

things present, nor things to come," could bend it into 
a separation " from the love of God which was in 
Christ Jesus their Lord." It was an inflexible obsti- 
nacy, in not blaspheming the name of Christ, which 
every where exposed them to persecution ; and which 
even your amiable and philosophic Pliny thought pro- 
per, for want of other crimes, to punish with death in 
the Christians of his province. We are agreed, too, 
that the zeal of the Christians was intolerant ; for it 
denounced " tribulation and anguish upon every soul 
of man that did evil, of the Jew first, and also of the 
Gentile :" it would not tolerate in Christian worship 
those who supplicated the image of Cajsar, who bow- 
ed down at the altars of Paganism, who mixed with 
the votaries of Venus, or wallowed in the filth of 
Bacchanalian festivals. 

But,- though we are thus far agreed with respect to 
the inflexibility and intolerance of Christian zeal, yet, 
as to the nr-'riciple from which it was derived, we are 


toto codo divided in opinion. You deduce it from the 
Jewish religion ; I would refer it to a more adequate 
and a more obvious source a full persuasion of the 
truth of Christianity. What ! think you that it was ; 
zeal derived from the unsocial spirit of Judaism, which 
inspired Peter with courage to upbraid the whole peo 
pie of the Jews, in the very capital of Judea, \vitij 
having " delivered up Jesus, with having denied hin 
in the presence of Pilate, with having desired a mur- 
derer to be granted them in his stead, with having 
killed the Prince of Life ?" Was it from this principle 
that the same apostle, in conjunction with John, when 
summoned, not before the dregs of the people, (whose 
judgment they might have been supposed capable of 
misleading, and whose resentment they might have 
despised,) but before the rulers and the elders, and the 
scribes, the dread tribunal of the Jewish nation, and 
commanded by them to teach no more in the name of 
Jesus, boldly answered, " that they could not but speak 
the things which they had seen and heard ?" They 
had " seen with their eyes, they had handled with 
their hands the word of life ;" and no human jurisdic- 
tion could deter them from being faithful witnesses of 
what they had seen and heard. Here, then, you may 
perceive the genuine and undoubted origin of that zeal 
which you ascribe to what appears to me a very insuf- 
ficient cause ; and which the Jewish rulers were so far 
from considering as the ordinary effect of their reli- 
gion, that they were exceedingly at a loss how to ac- 
count for it. u Now, when they saw the boldness of | 
Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearn- 
ed and ignorant men, they marveled." The apostles, 
heedless of consequences, and regardless of every I 


thing but truth, openly every where professed them- 
selves witnesses of the resurrection of Christ; and 
with a confidence which could proceed from nothing 
but conviction, and which pricked the Jews to the 
heart, bade " the house of Israel know assuredly, that 
God had made that same Jesus, whom they had cruci- 
fied, both Lord and Christ." 

I mean not to produce these instances of apostolic 
zeal as direct proofs of the truth of Christianity ; for 
every religion, nay, every absurd sect of every reli- 
gion, has had its zealots, who have not scrupled to 
maintain their principles at the expense of their lives ; 
and we ought no more to infer the truth of Christi- 
anity from the mere zeal of its propagators, than the 
truth of Mahomedanism from that of a Turk. When 
a man suffers himself to be covered with infamy, pil- 
laged of his property, and dragged at last to the block 
or the stake, rather than give up his opinion, the pro- 
per inference is, not that his opinion is true, but that 
he believes it to be true ; and a question of serious 
discussion immediately presents itself upon what 
foundation has he built his belief? This is often an 
intricate inquiry, including in it a vast compass of 
human learning. A Brahmin or a Mandarin, who 
should observe a missionary attesting the truth of 
Christianity with his blood, would, notwithstanding, 
have a right to ask many questions, before it could be 
expected that he should give an assent to our faith. 
In the case, indeed, of the apostles, the inquiry would 
be much less perplexed, since it would briefly resolve 
itself into this whether they were credible reporters 
of facts which they themselves professed to have 
seen and it would be an easy matter to show, that 

6 WATSON'S [18ft 

their zeal in attesting what they were certainly com- 
petent to judge of, could not proceed from any alluring 
prospect of worldly interest or ambition, or from any 
other probable motive than a love of truth. 

But the credibility of the apostles' testimony, or 
their competency to judge of the facts which they re- 
late, is now to be examined ; the question before us 
simply relates the principle by which their zeal was 
excited; and it is a matter of real astonishment to me, 
that any one conversant with the history of the first 
propagation of Christianity, acquainted with the op- 
position it every where met with from the people of 
the Jews, and aware of the repugnancy which must 
ever subsist between its tenets and those of Judaism, 
should ever think of deriving the zeal of the primitive 
Christians from the Jewish religion. 

Both Jew and Christian, indeed, believed in one 
God, and abominated idolatry ; but this detestation 
of idolatry, had it been unaccompanied with the 
belief of the resurrection of Christ, would probably 
have been just as inefficacious in exciting the zeal 
of the Christian to undertake the conversion of the 
Gentile world, as it had for ages been in exciting that 
of the Jew. But supppsing, what I think you have 
not proved, and what I am certain cannot be admitted 
without proof, that a zeal derived from the Jewish re- 
ligion inspired the first Christians with fortitude to 
oppose themselves to the institutions of Paganism; 
what was it that encouraged them to attempt the con- 
version of their own countrymen ? Amongst the Jews 
they met with no superstitious observances of idola- 
trous rites; and therefore amongst them could have 
no opportunity of " declaring and confirming their 


zealous opposition to Polytheism, or of fortifying, by 
frequent protestations, their attachment to the Chris- 
tian faith." Here, then, at least, the cause you have 
assigned for Christian zeal ceases to operate ; and we 
must look out for some other principle than a zeal 
against idolatry, or we shall never be able satisfac- 
torily to explain the ardor with which the apostles 
pressed the disciples of Moses to become the disciples 
of Christ. 

Again : Does a determined opposition to, and an 
open abhorrence of, even the minutest part of an old 
established religion, appear to you to be the most like- 
ly method of conciliating to another faith those who 
profess it? The Christians, you contend, could nei- 
ther mix with the heathens in their convivial enter- 
tainments, nor partake with them in the celebration 
of their solemn festivals ; they could neither associate 
with them in their hymenial nor funeral rites ; they 
could not cultivate their arts, or be spectators of their 
shows : in short, in order to escape the rites of Poly- 
theism, they were, in your opinion, obliged to renounce 
the commerce of mankind, and all the offices and 
amusements of life. Now, how such an extravagant 
and intemperate zeal, as you here describe, can, hu- 
manly speaking, be considered as one of the chief 
causes of the quick propagation of Christianity, in op- 
position to all the established powers of Paganism, is a 
circumstance I can by no means comprehend. The 
Jesuit missionaries, whose human prudence no one 
will question, were quite of a contrary way of think- 
ing ; and brought a deserved censure upon themselves 
for not scrupling to propagate the faith of Christ by 
indulging to their Pagan converts a frequent use of 

8 WATSON'S [190 

idolatrous ceremonies. Upon the whole it appears to 
me, that the Christians were in nowise indebted to 
the Jewish religion for the zeal with which they pro- 
pagated the Gospel amongst Jews as well as Gen- 
tiles ; and that such a zeal as you describe, let its 
principles be what you please, could never have been 
devised by any human understanding as a probable 
means of promoting the progress of a reformation in 
religion, much less could it have been thought of, or 
adopted, by a few ignorant and unconnected men. 

In expatiating upon this subject you have taken an 
opportunity of remarking, that " the contemporaries 
of Moses and Joshua had beheld with careless indif- 
ference the most amazing miracles and that, in con- 
tradiction to every known principle of the human 
mind, that singular people (the Jews) seem to have 
yielded a stronger and more ready assent to the tradi- 
tions of their remote ancestors, than to the evidence 
of their own senses." This observation bears hare 
upon the veracity of the Jewish Scriptures ; and, was 
it true, would force us either to reject them, or to ad- 
mit a position as extraordinary as a miracle itself 
that the testimony of others produced in the human 
mind a stronger degree of conviction, concerning 
matter of fact, than the testimony of the senses them- 
selves. It happens, however, in the present case, that 
we are under no necessity of either rejecting the Jew- 
ish Scriptures, or of admitting such an absurd posi- 
tion ; for the fact is not true, that the contemporaries 
of Moses and Joshua beheld with careless indifference 
the miracles related in the Bible to have been perform- 
ed in their favor. That these miracles were not suffi- 
cient to awe the Israelites into a uniform obedience to 


the Theocracy, cannot be denied ; but whatever rea- 
sons may be thought best adapted to account for the 
Dropensity of the Jews to idolatry, and their frequent 
defection from the worship of the one true God, a 
stubborn incredulity" cannot be admitted as one of 

To men, indeed, whose understandings have been 
enlightened by the Christian revelation, and enlarged 
)y all the aids of human learning ; who are under no 
emptations to idolatry from without, and whose rea- 
son from within would revolt at the idea of worship- 
ng the infinite Author of the universe under any cre- 
ated symbol ; to men who are compelled, by the utmost 
exertion of their reason, to admit, as an irrefragable 
truth, what puzzles the first principles of all reason- 
ng, the eternal existence of an uncaused being, and 
who are conscious that they cannot give n full account 
of any one phenomenon in nature, from the rotation of 
the great orbs of the universe to the germination of a 
)lade of grass, without having recourse to him as the 
Drimary incomprehensible cause of it ; and who, from 
seeing him every where, have, by a strange fatality, 
'converting an excess of evidence into a principle of 
disbelief,) at times doubted concerning his existence 
any where, and made the very universe their God : to 
men of such a stamp, it appears almost an incredible 
thing, that any human being, which had seen the order 
of nature interrupted, or the uniformity of its course 
suspended, though but for a moment, should ever af- 
terwards lose the impression of reverential awe which 
they apprehend would have been excited in their 
minds. But whatever effect the visible interposition 
of the Deity might have in removing the scepticism 

10 WATSON'S [192 

or confirming the faith, of a few philosophers, it is 
with me a very great doubt, whether the people in 
general of our days would be more strongly affected 
by it than they appear to have been in the days 

Was any people under heaven to escape the certain 
destruction impending over them, from the close pur- 
suit of an enraged and irresistible enemy, by seeing 
the waters of the ocean " becoming a wall to them on 
their right hand and on their left," they would, I ap- 
prehend, be agitated by the very same passions we 
are told the Israelites were, when they saw the sea 
returning to his strength, and swallowing up the host 
of Pharaoh; they "would fear the Lord, they would 
believe the Lord," and they would express their faith 
and their fear by praising the Lord : they would not 
behold such a great work with " careless indifference,'* 
but with astonishment and terror ; nor would you be 
able to detect the slightest vestige of " stubborn incre- 
dulity " in their song of gratitude. No length of time 
would be able to blot from their minds the memory < 
such a transaction, or induce a doubt concerning it! 
author ; though future hunger and thirst might make 
them call out for water and bread with a desponding 
and rebellious importunity. 

But it was not at the Red Sea only that the Israelit< 
regarded, with something more than a " careless in 
difference," the amazing miracles which God had 
wrought; for, when the law was declared to them 
from Mount Sinai, " all the people saw the thunder- 
ings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the tempest, 
and the mountain smoking ; and when the people saw 
it, they removed and stood afar off: and they said unto 


Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear j but let 
not God speak with us, lest we die." This again, sir, 
is the Scripture account of the language of the con- 
temporaries of Moses and Joshua ; and I leave it to 
you to consider whether this is the language of " stub- 
born incredulity and careless indifference." 

We are told, in Scripture, too, that whilst any of the 
" contemporaries " of Moses and Joshua were alive, 
the whole people served the Lord; the impression 
which a sight of the miracles had made was never 
effaced ; nor the obedience, which might have been 
expected as a natural consequence, refused, till Moses 
and Joshua, and all their contemporaries, were gather- 
ed unto their fathers ; till, " another generation after 
them arose, which knew not the Lord, nor yet the 
works which he had done for Israel." But " the peo- 
ple served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the 
days of the elders that outlived Joshua, who had seea 
all the great works of the Lord that he did for Israel." 

I am far from thinking you, sir, unacquainted with 
Scripture, or desirous of sinking the weight of its tes- 
timony ; but as the words of the history, from which 
you must have derived your observation, will not sup- 
port you in imputing "careless indifference" to the 
contemporaries of Moses, or "stubborn incredulity" 
to the forefathers of the Jews, I know not what can 
have induced you to pass so severe a censure upon 
them, except that you look upon a lapse into idolatry 
as a proof of infidelity. In answer to this, I would re- 
mark, that with equal soundness of argument we ought 
to infer, that every one who transgresses a religion, 
disbelieves it ; and that every individual, who in any 
community incurs civil pains and penalties, is a dis- 

believer of the existence of the authority by which 
they are inflicted. The sanctions of the Mosaic law 
were, in your opinion, terminated within the narrow 
limits of this life ; in that particular, then, they must 
have resembled the sanctions of all other civil laws : 
" transgress and die," is the language of every one of 
them, as well as that of Moses ; and I know not what 
reason we have to expect that the Jews, who were 
animated by the same hopes of temporal rewards, im- 
pelled by the same fears of temporal punishments, 
with the rest of mankind, should have been so singu- 
lar in their conduct, as never to have listened to the 
clamors of passion before the still voice of reason, as 
never to have preferred a present gratification of sense, 
in the lewd celebration of idolatrous rites, before the 
rigid observance of irksome ceremonies. 

Before I release you from the trouble of this letter, 
I cannot help observing, that I could have wished you 
had furnished your reader with Limborch's answers 
to the objections of the Jew Orobio, concerning the per- 
petual obligation of the law of Moses. You have, 
indeed, mentioned Limborch with respect, in a short 
note ; but, though you have studiously put into the 
mouths of the Judaising Christians in the apostolic 
days, and with great strength inserted into your text 
whatever has been said by Orobio, or others, against 
Christianity, Irom the supposed perpetuity of the Mo- 
saic dispensation, yet you have not favored us with 
any one of the numerous replies which have been made 
to these seemingly strong objections. You are pleased, 
it is true, to say, " that the industry of our learned di- 
vines has abundantly explained the ambiguous lan- 
guage of the Old Testament, and the ambiguous con- 


duct of the apostolic teachers." It requires, sir, no 
learned industry to explain what is so obvious and so 
expressive, that he who runs may read it. The lan- 
guage of the Old Testament is this: "Behold, the 
days come, saith the Lord, and I will make a new co- 
venant with the house of Israel, and with the house 
of Judah ; not according to the covenant that I made 
with their fathers, in the day that I took them by the 
hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt." This, 
methmks, is a clear and solemn declaration ; there is 
no ambiguity at all in it ; that the covenant with Mo- 
ses was not to be perpetual, but was, in some future 
time, to give way to a " new covenant." I will not 
detain you with an explanation of what Moses him- 
self has said upon this subject; but you may try, if 
you please, whether you can apply the following de- 
claration, which Moses made to the Jews, to any pro- 
phet, or succession of prophets, with the same pro- 
priety that you can to Jesus Christ : " The Lord thy 
God will raise up unto thee a prophet from the midst 
of thee, of thy brethren, like unto thee : unto him shall 
ye hearken." If you think this ambiguous or obscure, 
I answer, that it is not a history, but a prophecy ; and, 
as such, unavoidably liable to some degree of obscu- 
rity, till interpreted by the event. 

Nor was the conduct of the apostles more ambigu- 
ous than the language of the Old Testament ; they 
did not, indeed, at first comprehend the whole of the 
nature of the new dispensation ; and when they did 
I understand it better, they did not think proper, upon 
I every occasion, to use their Christian liberty ; but, with 
true Christian charity, accommodated themselves in 
matters of indifference to the prejudices of their weaker 

14 WATSON *S [196 

brethren. But he who changes his conduct with a 
change of sentiments, proceeding from an increase of 
knowledge, is not ambiguous in his conduct; nor 
should he be accused of a culpable duplicity, who, in 
a matter of the last importance, endeavors to conciliate 
the good-will of all, by conforming in a few innocent 
observances to the particular persuasions of differ- 
ent men. 

One remark more, and I have done. In your account 
of the Gnostics, you have given us a very minute ca- 
talogue of the objections which they made to the au- 
thority of Moses, from his account of the creation, of 
the patriarchs, of the law, and of the attributes of the 
Deity. I have not leisure to examine whether the 
Gnostics of former ages really made all the objections 
you have mentioned ; I take it for granted, upon your 
authority, that they did : but I am certain, if they did, 
that the Gnostics of modern times have no reason to 
be puffed up with their knowledge, or to be held in ad- 
miration as men of subtle penetration or refined erudi- 
tion ; they are all miserable copiers of their brethren 
of antiquity; and neither Morgan, .nor Tindal, norBo- 
lingbroke, nor Voltaire, have been able to produce 
scarce a single new objection. You think tha-t the Fa- 
thers have not properly answered the Gnostics. I make 
no question, sir, you are able to answer them to your 
own satisfaction, and informed of every thing that has 
been said by our " industrious divines " upon the sub- 
ject ; and we should have been glad if it had fallen in. 
with your plan to have administered, together with the 
poison, its antidote. But since that is not the case, lest 
its malignity should spread too far, I must just men 
tion it to my younger readers, that Leland, and others. 


in their replies to the modern deists, have given very 
full, and, as many learned men apprehend, very satis- 
factory answers to every one of the objections which 
you have derived from the Gnostic heresy. I am, &c. 


SIR: " The doctrine of a future life, improved by 
every additional circumstance which could give weight 
and efficacy to that important truth," is the second of 
the causes to which you attribute the 'quick increase of 
Christianity. Now, if we impartially consider the cir- 
cumstances of the persons to whom the doctrine, not 
simply of a future life, but of a future life accompa- 
nied with punishments as well as rewards ; not only 
of the immortality of the soul, but of the immortality 
of the soul accompanied with that of the resurrection, 
was delivered, I cannot be of opinion that, abstracted 
from the supernatural testimony by which it was en- 
forced, it could have met with any very extensive re- 
ception amongst them. 

It was not that kind of future life which they ex- 
pected ; it did not hold out to them the punishments of 
the infernal regions as aniles fabulas. [Old wives' 
fables.] To the question, Quid si post mortem ma- 
neant animi ? [What if souls exist after death ?] they 
would not answer with Cicero and the philosophers, 
Beatos esse concedo ; [They are happy;] because, 
there was a great probability that it might be quite 
otherwise with them. I am not to learn that there are 
passages to be picked up in the writings of the an- 
cients, which might be produced as proofs of their 
expecting a future state of punishment for the flagi- 

16 WATSON'S [198 

tious ; but this opinion was worn out of credit before 
the time of our Savior : the whole disputation in the 
first book of the Tusculan Questions goes upon the 
other supposition. Nor was the absurdity of the doc- 
trine of future punishments confined to the writings 
of the philosophers, or the circles of the learned and 
polite ; for Cicero, to mention no others, makes no se- 
cret of it in his public pleadings before the people at 
large. You, yourself, sir, have referred to his oration 
for Cluentius. In this oration, you may remember, he 
makes great mention of a very abandoned fellow Avho 
had forged, I know not how many wills, murdered, I 
know not how many wives, and perpetrated a thousand 
other villanies ; yet, even to this profligate, by name 
Oppianicus, he is persuaded that death was not the 
occasion of any evil. Hence, I think, we may con- 
clude, that such of the Romans as were not wholly 
infected with the annihilating notions of Epicurus, 
but entertained (whether from remote tradition or en- 
lightened argumentation) hopes of a future life, had 
no manner of expectation of such a life as included in 
it the severity of punishment denounced in the Chris- 
tian scheme against the wicked. 

Nor was it that kind of future life which they wish- 
ed : they would have been glad enough of an Elysium 
which could have admitted into it men who had spent 
this life in the perpetration of every vice which can 
debase and pollute the human heart. To abandon 
every seducing gratification of sense, to pluck up every 
latent root of ambition, to subdue every impulse of 
revenge, to divest themselves of every inveterate habi* 
in which their glory and their pleasure consisted : to 
do all this, and more, before they could look up to the 


doctrine of a future life without terror and amazement, 
was not, one would think, an easy undertaking ; nor 
was it likely, that many would forsake the religious 
institutions of their ancestors, set at naught the gods 
under whose auspices the capitol had been founded, 
and Rome made mistress of the world ; and suffer 
themselves to be persuaded into the belief of a tenet, 
the very mention of which made Felix tremble, by 
any thing less than a full conviction of the supernatu- 
ral authority of those who taught it. 

The several schools of Gentile philosophy had dis- 
cussed, with no small subtlety, every argument which 
reason could suggest, for and against the immortality 
of the soul; and those uncertain glimmerings of the 
light of nature would have prepared the minds of the 
learned for the reception of the full illustration of this 
subject by the Gospel, had not the resurrection been 
a part of the doctrine therein advanced. But that this 
corporeal frame, which is hourly mouldering away, 
and resolved at last into the undistinguished mass of 
elements from which it was first derived, should ever 
it be " clothed with immortality ; that this corruptible 
should ever put on incorruption," is a truth so far re- 
moved from the apprehension of philosophical re- 
search, so dissonant from the common conceptions of 
mankind, that amongst all ranks and persuasions of 
men it was esteemed an impossible thing. At Athens, 
the philosophers had listened with patience to St. 
Paul, whilst they conceived him but a " setter forth of 
strange gods :" but as soon as they comprehended, 
that by the AVXO-TAO-/C he meant the resurrection, they 
turned from him with contempt. It was principally 
the insisting upon the same topic which made Festus 

18 WATSON'S [200 

think " that much learning had made him mad." And 
the questions, " How are the dead raised up ?" and, 
" With what body do they come?" seem, by Paul's 
solicitude to answer them with fullness and precision, 
to have been not unfrcquently proposed to him by 
those who were desirous of becoming Christians. 

The doctrine of a future life, then, as promulged ir 
the Gospel, being neither agreeable to the expecta 
tions, nor corresponding with the wishes, nor confor 
mable to the reason of the Gentiles, I can discover m 
motive (setting aside the true one, the divine powe 
of its first preachers,) which could induce them to re 
ceive it ; and, in consequence of their belief, to con 
form their loose morals to the rigid standard of Gospe 
purity, upon the mere authority of a few contempt! 
ble fishermen of Judea. And even you, yourself, sir 
seem to have changed your opinion concerning th 
efficacy of the expectation of a future life in convert 
ing the heathen, when you observe in the following 
chapter, that " the Pagan multitude, reserving theii 
gratitude for temporal benefits alone, rejected the in 
estimable present of life and immortality which was 
offered to mankind by Jesus of Nazareth." 

Montesquieu is of opinion that it will ever be im 
possible for Christianity to establish itself in China 
and the East, from the circumstance that it prohibits 
a plurality of wives. How' then could it have been 
possible for it to have pervaded the voluptuous capi- 
tal, and traversed the utmost limits of the empire oi 
Rome, by the feeble efforts of human industry or hu- 
man knavery? 

But the Gentifes, you are of opinion, were converted 
by their fears j and you reckon the doctrine of Christ's 


speedy appearance, of the millennium, and of the ge- 
neral conflagration, amongst those additional circum- 
stances which gave weight to that concerning a future 
state. Before I proceed to the examination of the 
efficiency of these several circumstances in alarming 
the apprehensions of the Gentiles, what if I should 
grant your position ? Still the main question recurs. 
From what source did they derive the fears which 
converted them? Not surely from the mere human 
labors of men who were every where spoken against, 
made a spectacle of, and considered as the filth of the 
world, and the offscouring of all things; not surely 
from the human powers of him, who professed him- 
self "rude in speech, in bodily presence contempti- 
ble," and a despiser of " the excellency of speech, and 
enticing words of man's wisdom." No, such 
wretched instruments were but ill fitted to inspire the 
haughty and the learned Romans with any other pas 
sions than those of pity or contempt. 

Now, sir, if you please, we will consider that uni- 
versal expectation of the approaching end of the 
world, which, you think, had such great influence in 
converting the Pagans to the profession of Christiani- 
ty. The near approch, you say, of this wonderful 
event had been predicted by the apostles, "though 
the revolution of seventeen centuries has instructed 
us not to press too closely the mysterious language of 
prophecy and revelation." That this opinion, even in 
the times of the apostles, had made its way into the 
Christian church, I readily admit ; but that the apostles 
ever either predicted this event to others, or cherished 
the expectation of it in themselves, does not seem 
probable to me. As this is a point of some difficulty 

20 WATSON'S [202 

and importance, you will suffer me to explain it at 
some length. 

It must be owned that there are several passages 
in the writings of the apostles which, at the first view, 
seem to countenance the opinion you have adopted 
"Now," says St. Paul, in his Epistle to the Romans 
" it is high time to awake out of sleep ; for now is our 
salvation nearer than when we believed. The aight 
is far spent, the day is at hand." ' And in his First 
Epistle to the Thessalonians he comforts such ot 
them as were sorrowing for the loss of their friends 
by assuring them, that they were not lost for ever; 
but that the Lord, when he came, would bring then 
with him; and that they would not, in the partici- 
pation of any blessings, be in anywise behind those 
who should happen then to be alive : " We," says he, 
(the Christians of whatever age or country, agreeable 
to a frequent use of the. pronoun we,) " which are 
alive, and remain unto the coming of the Lord, shall 
not prevent them which are asleep ; for the Lord him- 
self shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the 
voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God, and 
the dead in Christ shall rise first ; then we which are 
alive, and remain, shall be caught up together with 
them in the clouds to meet the Lord." In his Epistle 
to the Philippians he exhorts his Christian brethren 
not to disquiet themselves with carking cares about 
their temporal concerns, from this powerful conside- 
ration, that the Lord was at hand : " Let your mode- 
ration be known to all men ; the Lord is at hand : be 
careful for nothing." In the Epistle to the Hebrews 
he inculcates the same doctrine, admonishing his con- 
verts "to provoke one another to love, and to good 


works ; and so much the more, as they saw the day 
I approaching." The age in which the apostles lived 
is frequently called by them the end of the world, 
the last days, the last hour. I think it unnecessary, 
sir, to trouble you with an explication of these and 
other similar texts of Scripture, which are usually ad- 
duced in support of your opinion, since I hope to be 
able to give you a direct proof, that the apostles neither 
[comforted themselves, nor encouraged others, with 
|the delightful hope of seeing their Master coming 
|again into the world. 

It is evident, then, that St. John, who survived all 
the other apostles, could not have had any such ex- 
pectation ; since, in the book of the revelation, the fu- 
ture events of the Christian church, which were not 
Hto take place, many of them, till a long series of years 
Ipfter his death, and some of which have not yet been 
(accomplished, are there minutely described. St. Peter, 
Jin like manner, strongly intimates, that the day of the 
Lord might be said to be at hand, though it was at 
\ [he distance of a thousand years or more ; for in re- 
viving to the taunt of those who did then, or should 
n future ask, " Where is the promise of his coming ?" 
ic says, " Beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, 
ant one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and 
i thousand years as one day : The Lord is not slack 
( loncerning his promise, as some men count slack- 
* kess." And he speaks of putting off his tabernacle, as 
] pe Lord had showed him ; and of his endeavor that 
he Christians after his decease might be able to have 
hese things in remembrance : so that it is past a 
oubt, he could not be of opinion that the Lord would 
ome in his time. As to St. Paul, upon a partial view 

22 WATSON'S [204 

of whose writings the doctrine concerning the speedy 
coming of Christ is principally founded, it is manifest, 
that he was conscious he should not live to see it, not- 
withstanding the expression before mentioned, "we 
which are alive ;" for he foretells his own death in ex- 
press terms : " The time of my departure is at hand ;" 
and he speaks of his reward, not as immediately to be 
conferred upon him, but as laid up, and reserved fo 
him till some future day. " I have fought a good fight 
I have finished my course ; henceforth there is laid 
for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, th 
righteous judge, shall give me at that day." There is 
moreover, one passage in his writings which is so ex 
press, and full to the purpose, that it will put th 
matter, I think, beyond all doubt ; it occurs in his Se 
cond Epistle to the Thessalonians. They, it seems 
had, either by misinterpreting some parts of his forme 
letter to them, or by the preaching of some, who '. 
not the spirit of truth, by some means or other the 
had been led to expect the speedy coming of Chris 
and been greatly disturbed in mind upon that account 
To remove this error, he writes to them in the follow 
ing very solemn and affectionate manner : " We be- j 
seech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesu 
Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, th 
ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neithe 
by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as th 
the day of the Lord is at hand; let no man deceive I 
you by any means." He then goes on to describe a fall- 1 
ing away, a great corruption of the Christian church, I 
which was to happen before the day of the Lord. Now. { 
by this revelation of the man of sin, this mystery of 
iniquity, which is to be consumed with the spirit of 

205 1 REPLY TO GIBBON. 23 

his mouth, destroyed by the brightness of his coming, 
we have every reason to believe, is to be understood 
the past and present abominations of the church of 
Rome. How then can it be said of Paul, who clearly 
foresaw this corruption above seventeen hundred years 
ago, that he expected the coming of the Lord in his 
own day ? Let us press, sir, the mysterious language 
of prophecy and revelation as closely as you please ; 
but let us press it truly : and we may, perhaps, find 
reason from thence to receive, with less reluctance, a 
religion which describes a corruption, the strangeness 
of which, had it not been foretold in unequivocal 
terms, might have amazed even a friend to Christianity. 
I will produce you, sir, a prophecy, which, the more 
closely you press it, the more reason you will have to 
believe, that the speedy coming of Christ could never 
have been "predicted" by the apostles. Take it, as 
translated by Bishop Newton : " But the Spirit speak- 
eth expressly, that in the latter times, some shall apos- 
tatize from the faith ; giving heed to erroneous spirits, 
and doctrines concerning demons, through the hypo- 
crisy of liars ; having their conscience seared with a 
hot iron ; forbidding to marry, and commanding to ab- 
stain from meats." Here you have an express prophe- 
cy ; the Spirit hath spoken it ; that in the latter times, 
not immediately, but at some distant period, some 
should apostatize from the faith ; some, who had been 
Christians, should in truth be so no longer, but should 
give heed to erroneous spirits, and doctrines concern 
ing demons. Press this expression closely, and you 
may, perhaps, discover in it the erroneous tenets, and 
the demon or saint worship, of the church of Rome 
" Through the hypocrisy of liars:" you recognize, no 

S4 WATSON'S [200 

doubt, the priesthood, and the martyrologists. " Hav 
ing their conscience seared with a hot iron :" callous, 
indeed, must his conscience be, who traffics in indul- 
gence. " Forbidding to marry, and commanding to 
abstain from meats :" this language needs no press 
ing ; it discovers, at once, the unhappy votaries of mo 
nastic life, and the mortal sin of eating flesh on fas 

If, notwithstanding what has been said, you should 
still be of opinion that the apostles expected Chris 
would come in their time ; it will not follow that this 
their error ought in any wise to diminish their autho 
rity as preachers of the Gospel. I am sensible this po 
sition may alarm even some well-wishers to Chris 
tianity ; and supply its enemies with what they wil 
think an irrefragable argument. The apostles, they 
will say, were inspired with the Spirit of truth; am 
yet they fell into a gross mistake concerning a matte 
of great importance ; how is this to be reconciled 
Perhaps, in the following manner : When the time o 
our Savior's ministry was nearly at an end, he though 
proper to raise the spirits of his disciples, who were 
quite cast down with what he had told them about hi 
design of leaving them, by promising that he woulc 
send to them the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, the Spi 
rit of truth, who should teach them all things, am 
lead them into all truth. And we know, that this hi 
promise was accomplished on the day of Pentecost, 
when they were all filled with the Holy Ghost ; am 
we know farther, that from that time forward they 
were enabled to speak with tongues, to work miracles 
to preach the word with power, and to comprebem 
the mystery of the new dispensation which was com 


mitted unto them. But we nave no reason from hence 
to conclude, that they were immediately inspired with 
the apprehension of whatever might be known : that 
they became acquainted with all kinds of truth. They 
were undoubtedly led into such truths as it was neces- 
sary for them to know, in order to their converting the 
world to Christianity ; but, in other things, they were 
probably left to the exercise of their understanding, as 
other men usually are. But surely they might be pro- 
per witnesses of the life and resurrection of Christ, 
though they were not acquainted with every thing 
which might have been known ; though, in particular, 
they were ignorant of the precise time when our Lord 
would come to judge the world. It can be no im- 
peachment, either of their integrity as men, or their 
ability as historians, or their honesty as preachers of 
the Gospel, that they were unacquainted with what 
had never been revealed to them ; that they followed 
their own understandings where they had no better 
light to guide them ; speaking from conjecture, when 
they could not speak from certainty ; of themselves, 
when they had no commandment of the Lord. They 
knew but in part, and they prophesied but in part ; and 
concerning this particular point, Jesus himself had told 
I them, just as he was about finally to leave them, that 
it was not for them to " know the times and the seasons, 
which the Father had put in his own power." Nor is 
j it to be wondered at, that the apostles were left in a 
I state of uncertainty concerning the time in which 
1 Christ should appear; since beings far more exalted, 
ad more highly favored of heaven than they, were 
1 under an equal degree of ignorance : " Of that day," 
says our Savior, "and of that hour, knoweth no man; 

26 \VATSON ; S [ 208 

no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the 
Son, but the Father only." I am afraid, sir. I have 
tired you with Scripture quotations; but if I have 
been fortunate enough to convince you, either that the 
speedy coming of Christ was never expected, much 
less " predicted," by the apostles ; or that their mis 
take in that particular expectation can in no degn 
diminish the general weight of their testimony as his 
torians, I shall not be sorry for the ennui I may hav 
occasioned you. 

The doctrine of the Millenium is the second of the 
circumstances which you produce as giving weight 1 
that of a future state ; and you represent this doctrine 
as having been " carefully calculated by a succession 
of the fathers, from Justin Martyr and Irenseus, down 
to Lactantius ;" and observe, that when "the edifice 
of the church was almost completed, the temporary 
support was laid aside :" and in the notes you re.fei 
us, as a proof of what you advance, to "Irenseus, the 
disciple of Papias, who had seen the apostle Jchn," and 
to the second dialogue of Justin with Trypho. 

I wish, sir, you had turned to Eusebius for the 
character of this Papias, who had seen the apostle 
John: you would there have found him represented 
as little better than a credulous old woman ; very 
averse from reading, but mightily given to picking 
up stories and traditions next to fabulous ; amongs 
which, Eusebius reckons this of the Millenium one 
- Nor is it, I apprehend, quite certain, that Papias ever 
saw, much less discoursed, as seems to be insinuated 
with the apostle John. Eusebius thinks rather, that 
it was John the presbyter he had seen. But what if 
he had seen the apostle himself? Many a weak- 


headed man had undoubtedly seen him as well as 
Papias ; and it would be hard indeed upon Christians, 
if they were compelled to receive, as apostolical tra- 
ditions, the wild reveries of ancient enthusiasm, or 
such crude conceptions of ignorant fanaticism as no- 
thing but the rust of antiquity can render venerable. 

As to the works of Justin, the very dialogue you 
refer to contains a proof that the doctrine of the mil- 
lennium had not, even in his time, the universal re- 
ception you have supposed ; but that many Christians 
of pure and pious principles rejected it. I wonder how 
this passage escaped you ; but it may be that you fol- 
lowed Tillotson, who himself followed Mede, and 
read in the original ov instead of av ; and thus inward- 
ly violated the idiom of the language, the sense of the 
context, and the authority of the best editions. In the 
note you observe, that it is unnecessary for you to 
mention all the intermediate fathers between Justin 
and Lactantius, as the fact, you say, is not disputed. 
In a man who has read so many books, and to so good 
a purpose, he must be captious indeed, who cannot ex- 
cuse small mistakes. That unprejudiced regard to 
truth, however, which is the great characteristic of 
every distinguished historian, will, I am persuaded, 
make you thank me for recalling to your memory that 
Origen, the most learned of all the fathers ; and Dio- 
nysius, bishop of Alexandria, usually, for his immense 
erudition, surnamed the Great, were both of them prior 
to Lactantius, and both of them impugners of the mil- 
lennium doctrine. Look, sir, into Mosheirn, or alii ost 
any writer of ecclesiastical history, and you will fii.d 
the opposition of Origen and Dionysius to this system 
particularly noticed : look into so common an author 

28 WATSON'S [210 

as Whilby, and in his learned treatise upon this sub- 
ject you will find that he has well proved these two 
propositions : first, that this opinion of the millennium 
was never generally received in the church of Christ ; 
secondly, that there is no just ground to think it was 
derived from the apostles. From hence, I think, we 
may conclude, that this millennium doctrine (whicn, 
by the by, though it be new-modelled, is not yet thrown 
aside) could not have been any very serviceable scaf- 
fold in the erection of that mighty edifice which has 
crushed by the weight of its materials, and debased 
by the elegance of its structure, the stateliest temples 
of heathen superstition. With these remarks, I take 
leave of the millennium ; just observing, that your third 
circumstance, the general conflagration, seems to be 
effectually included in your first, the speedy coming 
of Christ. 1 am, &c. 


SIR, You esteem " the miraculous powers ascribed 
to the primitive church," as the third of the secondary 
causes of the rapid growth of Christianity. I should 
be willing to account the miracles, not merely ascribed 
to the primitive church, but really performed by the 
apostles, as the one great primary cause of the conver- 
sion of the Gentiles. But waiving this consideration, 
let us see whether the miraculous powers which yc 
ascribe to the primitive church, were in any eminent 
degree calculated to spread the belief of Christianity 
amongst a great and enlightened people. 

They consisted, you tell us, " of divine inspirations, 
conveyed sometimes in the form of a sleeping, some 


times of a waking vision ; and were liberally bestowed 
on all ranks of the faithful, on women as on elders, on 
boys as well as upon bishops." " The design of these 
visions," yo i say, "was for the most part either to 
disclose the f Uure history, or to guide the present ad- 
ministration Oi* the church." You speak of " the ex- 
pulsion of demons as an ordinary triumph of religion, 
usually performed in a public manner ; and when the 
patient was relieved by the skill or the power of the 
exorcist, the vanquished demon was heard to confess 
that he was one of the fabled gods of antiquity, who 
had impiously usurped the adoration of mankind ;" and 
you represent even the miracle of the resurrection ot 
the dead as frequently performed on necessary occa- 
sions. Cast your eye, sir, upon the church of Rome, 
and ask yourself (I put the question to your heart, and 
beg you will consult that for an answer ; ask yourself,) 
whether her absurd pretensions to that very kind of 
miraculous powers you have here displayed as opera- 
ting to the increase of Christianity, have not converted 
half her numbers to Protestantism, and the other half 
to infidelity ? Neither the sword of the civil magis- 
trate, nor the possession of the keys of heaven, nor 
the terrors of her spiritual thunder, have been able 
keep within her pale even those who have been brt 
up in her faith; how then should you think, that the 
very cause which has almost extinguished Christiani- 
ty among Christians, should have established it among 
Pagans? I beg I may not be misunderstood. I do not 
take upon me to say, that all the miracles recorded in 
the history of the primitive church after the apostoli- 
cal age were forgeries : it is foreign to the present pur- 
pose to deliver any opinion upon that subject : but I 

30 WATSON'S [212 

do beg leave to insist upon this, that such of them as 
were forgeries must, in that learned age, by their easy 
detection, have rather impeded than accelerated the 
progress of Christianity ; and it appears very probable 
to me, that nothing but the recent prevailing evidence 
of real, unquestioned, apostolical miracles, could have 
secured the infant church from being destroyed by 
those which were falsely ascribed to it. 

It is not every man who can nicely separate the cor- 
ruptions of religion from religion itself, or justly ap- 
portiDn the degrees of credit due to the a'versities ol 
evidence, and those who have ability for th^ task are 
usually ready enough to emancipate themselves from 
Gospel restraints (which, thwart the propensities 
sense, check the ebullitions of passion, and combat 
the prejudices of the world at every turn) by blending 
its native simplicity with the superstitions which hav 
been derived from it. No argument is so well suitec 
to the indolence or the immorality of mankind, as tha 
priests of all ages and religions are the same : we se 
the pretensions of the Romish priesthood to miracu 
lous powers, and we know them to be false ; we ar 
conscious that they, at least, must sacrifice their in 
tegrity to their interest or their ambition ; and being 
persuaded that there is a great sameness in the pas 
sions of mankind and in their incentives to action ; am 
knowing that the history of past ages is abundantly 
stored with similar claims to supernatural authority 
we traverse back, in imagination, the most distant re 
gions of antiquity ; and finding, from a superficial view 
nothing to discriminate one set of men or one periot 
of time from another, we hastily conclude that all re 
vealed religion is a cheat, and that the miracles attri 


bated to the apostles themselves are supported by no 
better testimony, nor more worthy tf our attention 
than the prodigies of Pagan story or the lying wonders 
of Papal artifice. I have no intention, in this place, to 
enlarge upon the many circumstances by which a can- 
did inquirer after truth might be enabled to distinguish 
a pointed difference between the miracles of Christ 
ind his apostles, and the tricks of ancient or modern 
superstition. One observation I would just suggest to 
you upon this subject : the miracles recorded in the 
Old and New Testament are so intimately united with 
the narration of common events, and the ordinary 
transactions of life, that you cannot, as in profane his- 
tory, separate the one from' the other. My meaning 
will be illustrated by an instance : Tacitus and Sue- 
tonius have handed down to us an account of many 
great actions performed by Vespasian ; and, ,among 
the rest, they inform us of his having wrought some 
miracles ; of his having cured a lame man, and restor- 
ed sight to one that was blind. But what they tell us 
of these miracles is so unconnected with every thing- 
that goes before and after, that you may reject the re- 
lation of them without injuring, in any degree, the 
consistency of the narration of the other circumstan- 
ces of his life : on the other hand, if you reject the 
relation of the miracles said to have been performed 
oy Jesus Christ, you must necessarily reject the ac- 
count of his whole life, and of several transactions, 
concerning which we have the undoubted testimony 
of other writers besides the evangelists. But if this 
argument should not strike you, perhaps the following 
observation may tend to remove a little of the preju- 
dice usually conceived against Gospel miracles by men 

32 WATSON s [214 

of lively imaginations, on account of the gross forge- 
ries attributed to the first ages of the church. 

The phenomena of physics are sometimes happily 
illustrated by an hypothesis ; and the most recondite 
truths of mathematical science, not unfrequently, in- 
vestigated from an absurd position. What if we try 
the same method of arguing the case before us ? Le 
us suppose, then, that a new revelation was to be pr 
mulged to mankind ; and that twelve unlearned and 
unfriended men, inhabitants of any country most odiou 
and despicable in the eyes of Europe, should, by the 
power of God, be endowed with the faculty of spea 
ing languages they had never learned, and performirj 
works surpassing all human ability ; and that, beir 
strongly impressed with a particular truth which the 
were commissioned to promulgate, they should travel] 
not onjy through the barbarous regions of Africa, bu 
through all the learned and polished states of Eufop 
preaching every where with unremitted sedulity a nev 
religion, working stupendous miracles in attestation < 
their mission, and communicating to their first con 
verts (as a seal of their conversion) a variety of spir: 
tual gifts : does it appear probable to you that, afte 
the death of these men, and probably after the death 
of most of their immediate successors who had bee 
zealously attached to the faith they had seen so mir 
culously confirmed, none would ever attempt to impos 
upon the credulous or the ignorant by a fictitious clain 
to supernatural powers ? Would none of them aspir 
to the gift of tongues ? would none of them mist! 
frenzy for illumination, and the delusions of a heate 
brain for the impulses of the Spirit ? would none un 
dertake to cure inveterate disorders, to expel demon 


or to raise the dead ? As far as I can apprehend, we 
ought, from such a position, to deduce, by every rule of 
probable reasoning, the precise conclusion which was, 
in fact, 'verified in the case of the apostles : every spe- 
cies of miracles which heaven had enabled the first 
preachers to perform, would be counterfeited, either 
from misguided zeal or interested cunning: either 
through the imbecility or the iniquity of mankind ; and 
\ve might just as reasonably conclude that there never 
was any piety, charity, or chastity in the world, from 
seeing such plenty of pretenders to these virtues, as 
that there never were any real miracles performed, 
from considering the great store of those which have 
been forged. 

But, I know not how it has happened, there are many 
in the present age (I am far from including you, sir, 
in the number,) whose prejudices against all miracu- 
lous events have arisen to that height, that it appears 
to them utterly impossible for any human testimony, 
however great, to establish their credibility. I beg par- 
don for styling their reasoning, prejudice. I have no 
design to give offence by that word. They may, with 
equal right, throw the same imputation upon mine ; 
and I think it just as illiberal in divines to attribute 
the scepticism of every deist to wilful infidelity, as it 
is in the deists to refer the faith of every divine to pro- 
fessional bias. I have not had so little intercourse with 
mankind, nor shunned so much the delightful freedom 
of social converse, as to be ignorant that there are 
many men of upright morals and good understandings, 
to whom,, as you express it, " a latent and even invo- 
luntary scepticism adheres ;" and who would be glad 
to be persuaded to be Christians. For the sake of such 

34 WATSON J S [216 

men, if such should ever be induced to employ an hour 
in the perusal of these letters, suffer me to step for a 
moment out of my way, whilst I hazard an observa- 
tion or two upon the subject. 

Knowledge is rightly divided by Mr. Locke into in 
tuitive, sensitive, and demonstrative. It is clear, tha 
a past miracle can neither be the object of sense noi 
of intuition, nor consequently of demonstration : we 
cannot then, philosophically speaking, be said to know 
that a miracle has ever been performed. But, in al 
the great concerns of life, we are influenced by pro 
bability rather than knowledge : and of probability 
the same great author establishes two foundations ; f 
conformity to our own experience, and the testimony 
of others. Now, it has been contended, that by the op 
position of these two principles probability is destroy 
ed ; or, in other terms, that human testimony can neve 
influence the mind to assent to a proposition repug 
nant to uniform experience. Whose experience do yoi 
mean ? You will not say, your own ; for the experienc 
of an individual reaches but a little way ; and, n< 
doubt, you daily assent to a thousand truths in poli 
tics, in physics, and in the business of common life 
which you have never seen verified by experience 
You will not produce the experience of your friends 
for that can extend itself but a little way beyond you 
own. But by uniform experience, I conceive, you are 
desirous of understanding the experience of all ages 
and nations since the foundation of the world. I an- 
swer, first; how is it that you become acquainted with 
the experience of all ages and nations ? You will re- 
ply, from history. Be it so : peruse, then, by far 
most ancient records of antiquity; and if you find 



mention of miracles in them, I give up the point. Yes ; every thing related therein respecting miracles is 
to be reckoned fabulous. Why ? Because miracles con- 
tradict the experience of all ages and nations. Do you 
not perceive, sir, that you beg the very question in de- 
bate ? for we affirm, that the great and learned nation 
of Egypt, that the heathen inhabiting the land of Ca- 
naan, that the numerous people of the Jews, and the 
nations which, for ages, surrounded them, have all 
had great experience of miracles. You cannot other- 
wise obviate this conclusion, than by questioning the 
authenticity of that book, concerning which Newton, 
when he was writing his commentary on Daniel, ex- 
pressed himself to the person* from whom I had the 
anecdote, and which deserves not to be lost : " I find 
more sure marks of authenticity in the Bible than in 
any profane history whatsoever." 

However, I mean not to press you with the argu- 
ment ad verecundiam ; it is needless to solicit your 
modesty, when it may be possible, perhaps, to make 
an impression upon your judgment : I answer, there- 
fore, in the second place, that the admission of the 
principle by which you reject miracles will lead us 
into absurdity. The laws of gravitation are the most 
obvious of all the laws of nature ; every person in every 
part of the globe must of necessity have had experience 
of them. There was a time when no one was ac- 
quainted with the laws of magnetism : these suspend 
in many instances the laws of gravity : nor can I see, 
upon the principle in question, how the rest of man- 
kind could have credited the testimony of their first 

* Dr. Smith, late Master of Trinity College. 

36 WATSON'S [218 

discoverer; and yet to have rejected it would have 
been to reject the truth. But that a piece of iron should 
ascend gradually from the earth, and fly at last with 
an increasing rapidity through the air; and attaching 
itself to another piece of iron, or to a particular species 
of iron ore, should remain suspended, in opposition to 
the action of its gravity, it will be alledged, is con- 
sonant to the laws of nature. I grant it ; but there wa? 
a time when it was contrary, I say not to the laws ol 
nature, but to the uniform experience of all preceding 
ages and countries; and at that particular point ol 
time, the testimony of an individual, or of a dozen in- 
dividuals, who should have reported themselves eye- 
witnesses of such a fact, ought, according to your ar- 
gumentation, to have been received as fabulous. And 
what are those laws of nature, which, you think, can 
never be suspended t Are they not different to differ- 
ent men, according to the diversities of their compre- 
hension and knowledge? And it any of them (that, 
for instance, which rules the operations of magnetism 
or electricity) should have been known to you or to 
me alone, whilst all the rest of the world were unac- 
quainted with it ; the effects of it would have been 
new, and unheard of in the annals, and contrary to 
the experience of mankind ; and therefore ought not, 
in your opinion, to have been believed ! Nor do 1 un- 
derstand what difference, as to credibility, there could 
be between the effects of such an unknown law of na- 
ture, and a miracle ; for it is a matter of no moment, 
in that view, whether the suspension of the known 
Jaws of nature be effected ; that is, whether a miracle 
be performed, by the mediation of other laws that arc 
unknown, or by the ministry ot a person divinely com- 


missioned; since it is impossible for us to be certain 
that it is contradictory to the constitution of the uni- 
verse, that the laws of nature, which appear to us 
general, should be suspended, and their action over- 
ruled by others, still more general though less known ; 
that is, that miracles should be performed before such 
a being as man, at those times, in those places, and 
under those circumstances, which God, m his univer- 
sal providence, had pre-ordained. I am, &c. 


SIR; I readily acknowledge the utility of your 
fourth cause, " the virtues of the first Christians," as 
greatly conducing to the spreading of their religion ; 
but then you seem to quite mar the compliment you 
pay them, by representing their virtues as proceeding 
cither from their repentance for having been the most 
abandoned sinners, or from the laudable desire of sup- 
porting the reputation of the society in which they 
were engaged. 

That repentance is the first step to virtue, is true 
enough ; but I see no reason for supposing, according 
to the calumnies of Celsus and Julian, "that the 
Christians allured into their party men who washed 
away in the waters of baptism the guilt for which the 
temples of the gods refused to grant them any expi- 
ation." The apostles, sir, did not, like Romulus, open 
an asylum for debtors, thieves and murderers; for 
they had not the same sturdy means of securing their 
adherents from the grasp of civil power ; they did not 
persuade them to abandon the temples of the gods 

38 WATSON'S [220 

because they could there obtain no expiation for their 
guilt, but because every degree of guilt was expiated 
in them with too great facility, and every vice prac- 
ticed, not only without remorse of* private conscience 
but with the powerful sanction of public approbation. 
"After the example," you say, "of their Divine 
Master, the missionaries of the Gospel addressed 
themselves to men, and especially to women, oppres- 
sed by the consciousness, and very often by the effects, 
of their vices." This, sir, I really tLiak, is not a fair 
representation of the matter; it may catch the ap- 
plause of the unlearned, embolden many a stripling 
to cast off for ever tne sweet blush of modesty, confirm 
many a dissolute veteran in the practice of his impure 
habits, and suggest great occasion of merriment and 
wanton mockery to the flagitious of every denomi- 
nation and every age ; but still it will want that foun- 
dation of truth which alone can recommend it to the 
serious and judicious. The apostles, sir, were not 
like the Italian Fratricelli of the thirteenth, nor the 
French Turlupins of the fourteenth century : m all 
the dirt that has been raked up against Christianity, 
even by the worst of its enemies, not a speck of that 
kind have they been able to fix, either upon the apos- 
tles or their Divine Master. The Gospel of Jesus 
Christ, sir, was not preached in single houses or ob- 
scure villages, not in subterraneous caves and im- 
pure brothels, not in lazars and in prisons; but in 
the synagogues and in the temples, in the streets 
and the market places of the great capitals of the Ro- 
man provinces ; in Jerusalem, in Corinth, and in An- 
tioch ; in Athens, in Ephesus, and in Rome. Nor do 
I any where find, that its missionaries were ordered 


particularly to address themselves to the shameless 
women you mention : I do indeed find the direct con- 
trary; for they were ordered to turn away from, to 
have no fellowship or intercourse with such as were 
wont "to creep into houses, and lead captive silly 
women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts. ? ' 
And what if a few women, who had either been se- 
duced by their passions, or had fallen victims to the 
licentious manners of their age, should be found 
amongst those who were most ready to receive a reli- 
gion that forbad all impurity ? I do not apprehend 
that this circumstance ought to bring an insinuation 
of discredit, either upon the sex, or upon those who 
wrought their reformation. 

That the majority of the first converts to Christi- 
anity were of an inferior condition in life, may readily 
be allowed ; and you yourself have, in another place, 
given a good reason for it : those who are distinguish- 
ed by riches, honors, or knowledge, being so very in- 
considerable in number when compared with the bulk 
of mankind. But though* not many mighty, not many 
noble were called yet some mighty, and some noble, 
some of as great reputation as any of the age in which 
they lived, were attached to the Christian faith. Short 
indeed are the accounts which have been transmitted 
to us of the first propagating of Christianity ; yet, even 
in these we meet with the names of many who would 
have done credit to any cause. I will not pretend to 
enumerate them all ; a few of them will be sufficient 
to make you recollect that there were, at least, some 
converts to Christianity, both from among the Jews 
and the Gentiles, whose lives were not stained with 
inexpiable crimes. Among these we reckon Nicode* 

40 WATSON'S [222 

mus, a ruler of the Jews ; Joseph of Arimathea, a man 
of fortune and a counsellor ; a nobleman and a centu- 
rion of Capernaum ; Jairus, Crispus, Sosthenes, rulers 
of synagogues ; Apollos, an eloquent and learned man ; 
Zenas, a Jewish lawyer; the treasurer of Candace 
queen of ^Ethiopia; Cornelius, a centurion of the 
Italian band; Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus 
at Athens, and Sergius Paulus, a man of proconsula 
or praetorian authority, of whom it may be remarked 
that if he resigned his high and lucrative office in con 
sequence of his turning Christian, it is a strong pre 
sumption in its favor; if he retained it, we may con 
elude that the profession of Christianity was not so 
utterly incompatible with the discharge of the offices 
of civil life as you sometimes represent it. 

This catalogue of men of rank, fortune, and know 
ledge, who embraced Christianity, might, was it ne 
cessary, be much enlarged ; and probably another con- 
versation with St. Paul would have enabled us to grace 
it with the names of Festus, and king Agrippa* him- 
self; not that the writers of the books of the New 
Testament seem to have been at all solicitous in men- 
tioning the great or the learned men who were con- 
verted to the faith. Had that been part of their design, 
they would, in the true style of impostors, have kepi 
out of sight the publicans and sinners, the tanners and 
tent-makers with whom they conversed and dwelt, and 
introduced to our notice none but those who had been 
" brought up with Herod or the chief men of Asia/ 1 
whom they had the honor to number among their 

That the primitive Christians took great care to have 
sn unsullied reputation by abstaining from the com- 


mission of whatever might tend to pollute it, is easily- 
admitted ; hut we do not so easily grant that this care 
is a " circumstance which usually attends small as- 
semhlies of men when they separate themselves from 
the body of a nation, or the religion to which they be- 
longed." It did not attend the Nicolaitanes, the Simo- 
nians, the Menandrians, and the Carpocratians, in the 
first ages of the church, of which you are speaking ; 
and it cannot be unknown to you, sir, that the scan- 
dalous vices of these very early sectaries brought a ge- 
neral and undistinguished censure upon the Christian 
name ; and, so far from promoting the increase of the 
church, excited in the minds of the Pagans an abhor- 
rence of whatever respected it. It cannot be unknown 
to you, sir, that several sectaries, both at home and 
abroad, might be mentioned, who have departed from 
the religion to which they belonged ; and which, un- 
happily for themselves and the community, have taken 
as little care to preserve their reputation unspotted, as 
those of the first and second centuries. If, then, the 
first Christians did take the care you mention, (and I 
am wholly of your opinion in that point,) their solici- 
tude might as candidly, perhaps, and as reasonably be 
derived from a sense of their duty, and an honest en- 
deavor to discharge it, as from the mere desire of in- 
creasing the honor of their confraternity by the illus- 
trious integrity of its members. 

You are eloquent in describing the austere morality 
of the primitive Christians, as adverse to the propen- 
sities of sense, and abhorrent from all the innocent 
pleasures and amusements of life; and you enlarge, 
with a studied minuteness, upon their censures of lux- 
ury, and their sentiments concerning marriage and 

42 WATSON'S [224 

chastity: but in this circumstantial enumeration of 
their errors or their faults (which I am under no ne- 
cessity of denying or excusing) you seem to forget 
the very purpose for which you profess to have intro- 
duced the mention of them ; for the picture you have 
drawn is so hideous, and the coloring so disrr\al, that 
instead of alluring to a closer inspection, it must have 
made every man of pleasure or of sense turn from it 
with horror or disgust ; and so far from contributing 
to the rapid growth of Christianity by the austerity of 
their manners, it must be a wonder to any one, how 
the first Christians ever made a single convert. It was 
first objected by Celsus, that Christianity was a mean 
religion, inculcating such a pusillanimity and patience 
under affronts, such a contempt of riches and worldly 
honors, as must weaken the nerves of civil govern 
ment, and expose a society of Christians to the prey 
of the first invaders. This objection has been repeated 
by Bayle ; and though fully answered by Bernard and 
others, it is still the favorite theme of every esprit fort 
[brave spirit] of our own age : even you, sir, think the 
aversion of Christians to the business of war and go- 
vernment, " a criminal disregard to the public welfare." 
To all that has been said upon this subject it may with 
justice, I think, be answered, that Christianity trou- 
bles not itself with ordering the constitutions of civil 
societies, but levels the weight of all its influence at 
the hearts of the individuals which compose them ; 
and, as Origen said to Celsus, was every individual 
in every nation a Gospel Christian, there would be 
neither internal injustice, nor external war; there 
would be none of those passions which embitter the 
intercourse of civil life, and desolate the globe. What 


reproach then can it be to a religion, that it inculcates 
doctrines, which, if universally practiced, would in- 
troduce universal tranquility, and the most exalted 
happiness amongst mankind ? 

It must proceed from a total misapprehension of the 
design of the Christian dispensation, or from a very 
ignorant interpretation of the particular injunctions, 
forbidding us to make riches or honors a primary pur- 
! suit, or the prompt gratification of revenge a first prin- 
ciple of action, to infer, that an individual Christian 
is obliged by his religion to offer his throat to an as- 
i sassin, and his property to the first plunderer, or that 
I a society of Christians may not repel, in the best 
I manner they are able, the unjust assaults of hostile 

I know of no precepts in the Gospel which debar a 
a man from the possession of domestic comforts, or 
,1 deaden the activity of his private friendships, or pro- 
hibit the exertion of his utmost ability in the service 
i of the public : the nisi quietum nihil beatum [no hap- 
ipiness without rest] is no part of the Christian's creed : 
I his virtue is an active virtue: and we justly refer to 
ithe school of Epicurus the doctrines concerning absti- 
nence from marriage, from the cultivation of friend- 
'ship, from the management of public affairs, as suited 
to that selfish indolence which was the favorite tenet 
of his philosophy. I am, &c. 


-1 SIR," The union and the discipline of the Chris- 
tian church," or, as you are pleased to style it, of the 


Christian republic, is the >ast of the five secondar 
causes to which you have referred the rapid and ex 
tensive spread of Christianity. It -must be ackno^ 
ledged that union essentially contributes to the strengt] 
of every association, civil, military, and religious ; but, 
unfortunately for your argument, and much to the re- 
proach of Christians, nothing has been more wanting 
amongst them, from the apostolic age to your own, 
than union. " I am of Paul, and I of Apollos, and I 
of Cephas, and I of Christ," are expressions of dis- 
union, which we meet with in the earliest period of 
church history : and we cannot look into the writings 
of any, either friend or foe to Christianity, but we find 
the one of them lamenting, and the other exulting in 
an immense catalogue of sectaries; and both of them ' 
thereby furnishing us with great reason to believe that I 
the divisions with respect to doctrine, worship, and 
discipline, which have ever subsisted in the church, J 
must have greatly tended to hurt the credit of Chris- 
tianity, and to alienate the minds of the Gentiles from 
the reception of such a various and discordant faith. 
I readily grant, that there was a certain community I 
of doctrine, an intercourse of hospitality, and a confede- 
racy of discipline established among the individuals of 
every church ; so that none could be admitted into any 
assembly of Christians without undergoing a previous 
examination into his manner of life, (which shows, by-| 
the-by, that every reprobate could not, as the fit seized 
him, or his interest induced him, become a Christian,) 
and without protesting in the most solemn manner,, 
that he would neither be guilty of murder, nor adulte- 1 
ry. nor theft, nor perfidy ; and it may be granted also,! 
that those who broke this compact were ejected b) i 



common consent from the confraternity into which they 
j had been admitted. It may be farther granted, that this 
(Confederacy extended itself to independent churches; 
iand that those who had, for their immoralities, been 
^excluded from Christian community in any one church, 
j were rarely, if ever, admitted to it by another ; just as a 
amernber who has been expelled any one college in a 
university, is generally thought unworthy of being ad- 
I mitted by any other : but it is not admitted, that this 
severity and this union of discipline could ever have 
induced the Pagans to forsake the gods of their coun- 
(try, and to expose themselves to the contemptuous 
hatred of their neighbors, and to all the severities 
itaf persecution, exercised with unrelenting barbarity, 
Bagainst the Christians. 

The account you give of the origin and progress of 
episcopal jurisdiction, of the pre-eminence of the me- 
[jtropolitan churches, and of the ambition of the Roman 
pontifF, I believe to be in general accurate and true ; 
and I am not in the least surprised at the bitterness 
j which now and then escapes you in treating this sub- 
ject: for to see the most benign religion that imagina- 
tion can form, becoming an instrument of oppression, 
and the most humble one administering to the pride, 
and the avarice, and the ambition of those who wished 
Ijto be considered as its guardians, and who avowed 
[jlhemselves its professors, would extort a censure from 
j (men more attached probably to church authority than 
I Jyourself. Not that I think it either a very candid, or a 
I jvery useful undertaking, to be solely and industrious- 
ly fly engaged in portraying the characters of the profes- 
I jsors of Christianity in the worst colors : it is not candid, 
[(because " the great law of impartiality, which obliges- 


an historian to reveal the imperfections of the uniri 
spired teachers and believers of the Gospel," oblige 
him also not to conceal, or to pass over with niggar 
and reluctant mention, the illustrious virtues of the 
who gave up fortune and fame, all their comforts, and 
all their hopes in this life ; nay. life itself, rather than 
violate any one of the precepts of that Gospel which 
from the testimony of inspired teachers, they conceived 
they had good reason to believe : it is not useful, 1 
cause " to a careless observer," (that is, to the gene 
rality of mankind,) " their faults may seem to cast a 
shade on the faith which they professed ;" and may 
really infect the minds of the young and unlearned 
especially, with prejudices against a religion, upo 
their rational reception or rejection of which, a matte 
of the utmost importance may (believe me, sir, it may 
for aught you or any person else can prove to the con 
trary) entirely depend. 

It is an easy matter to amuse ourselves and other 
with the immoralities of priests and the ambition 
prelates ; with the absurd virulence of synods an 
councils ; with the ridiculous doctrines which vision- 
ary enthusiasts or interested churchmen have sancti- 
fied with the name of Christian ; but a display of 
ingenuity or erudition upon such subjects is much 
misplaced, since it excites, almost in every person^ an 
unavoidable suspicion of the purity of the source it- 
self from which such polluted streams have been de- 
rived. Do not mistake my meaning. I am far from ; 
wishing that the clergy should be looked up to with a j 
blind reverence, or their imperfections screened by the j 
sanctity of their functions from the animadversion of 
the world ; quite the contrary. Their conduct, I am j 


of opinion, ought to be more nicely scrutinized, and 
their deviation from the rectitude of the Gospel more 
severely censured than that of other men ; but great 
care should be taken not to represent their vices, or 
their indiscretion, as originating in the principles of 
their religion. Do not mistake me. I am not here beg- 
ging quarters for Christianity, or contending that even 
the principles of our religion should be received with 
implicit faith; or that every objection to Christianity 
should be stitied by a representation of the mischief it 
might do if publicly promulged ; on the contrary, we 
invite, nay, we challenge you to a direct and liberal 
attack, though oblique glances and disingenuous in- 
sinuations we are willing to avoid ; well knowing that 
the character of our religion, like that of an honest 
man, is defended with greater difficulty against the 
suggestions of ridicule, and the secret malignity of 
pretended friends, than against positive accusations 
and the avowed malice of open enemies. 

In your account of the primitive church, you set forth 
that " the want of discipline and human learning was 
supplied by the occasional assistance of the prophets, 
who were called to that function without distinction of 
age, sex, or natural abilities." That the gift of pro- 
phecy was one of the spiritual gifts by which some of 
the first Christians were enabled to co-operate with the 
apostles in the general design of preaching the Gos- 
pel ; and that this gift, or rather as Mr. Locke thinks, 
the gift of tongues (by the ostentation of which many 
of them were prompted to speak in their assemblies at 
the same time) was the occasion of some disorder in 
the church of Corinth, which required the interposi- 
tion of the apostle to compose, is confessed on all 

48 WATSON'S [2 

hands. But, if you mean that the prophets were ever 
the sole pastors of the faithful, or that no provision 
made by the apostles for the good government and edi- 
iication of the church, except what might be acci- 
dentally derived from the occasional assistance of the 
prophets, you are much mistaken, and have undoubt- 
edly forgot what is said of Paul and Barnabas having 
ordained elders in Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch; and 
of Paul's commission to Titus, whom he had left in 
Crete, to ordain elders in every city ; and of his in- 
structions both to him and Timothy concerning the 
qualifications of those whom they were to appoint 
bishops ; one of which was, that a bishop should be 
able, by sound doctrine, to exhort and to convince the 
gainsayer. Nor is it said, that this sound doctrine 
was to be communicated to the bishop by prophecy, or 
that all persons, without distinction, might be called 
to that office ; but a bishop was to be " able to teach," 
not what he had learned by prophecy, but what Paul 
publicly preached, " the things that thou hast heard ol 
me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to 
faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also." 
And in every place almost, where prophets are men- 
tioned, they are joined with apostles and teachers, and 
other ministers of the Gospel ; so that there is no rea- 
son for your representing them as a distinct order of 
men, who were, by their occasional assistance, to sup- 
ply the want of discipline and human learning in the 
church. It would be taking too large a field to inquire 
whether the prophets you speak of were endowed with 
ordinary or extraordinary gifts ; whether they always 
spoke by the immediate impulse of the Spirit, or ac- 
cording to " the analogy of faith ;" whether their gift 


consisted in the foretelling of future events, or in the 
interpreting of Scripture to the edification, and exhor- 
tation, and comfort of the church, or in both. I will 
content myself with observing, that he will judge very 
improperly concerning the prophets of the apostolic 
church who takes his idea of their office or importance 
from your description of them. 

In speaking of the community of goods, which, you 
say, was adopted for a short time in the primitive 
church, you hold as inconclusive the arguments of 
Mosheim, who has endeavored to prove that it was a 
community quite different from that recommended by 
Pythagoras or Plato, consisting principally in a com- 
mon use derived from an unbounded liberality, which 
induced the opulent to share their riches with their in- 
digent brethren. There have been others, as well as 
Mosheim, who have entertained this opinion ; and it 
is not quite so indefensible as you represent it: but 
whether it be reasonable or absurd, need not now be 
examined ; it is far more necessary to take notice of 
an expression which you have used, and which may 
be apt to mislead unwary readers into a very injurious 
suspicion concerning the integrity of the apostles. In 
process of time, you observe, " the converts who em- 
braced the new religion were permitted to retain the 
possession of their patrimony." This expression, " per- 
mitted to retain," in ordinary acceptation, implies an 
antecedent obligation to part with. Now, sir, I have 
not the shadow of a doubt in affirming that we have 
no account in Scripture of any such obligation being 
imposed upon the converts to Christianity, either by 
Christ himself, or by his apostles, or by any other au- 
thority ; nay, in the very place where this community 

50 \VATSON J 3 [232 

of goods is treated of, there is an express proof (I know 
not how your impartiality has happened to overlook it) 
to the contrary. When Peter was about to inflict an 
exemplary punishment upon Ananias (not for keeping 
back a part of the price, as some men are fond of re- 
presenting it, but) for his lying and hypocrisy, m offer- 
ing a part of the price of his land as the whole of it ; 
he said to him, "Whilst it remained (unsold) was it 
^ot thine own ? and after it was sold, was it not ii! 
thine own power?" From this account it is evident 
that Ananias was under no obligation to part with his 
patrimony ; and after he had parted with it, the price 
was in his own power. The apostle would have " per- 
mitted him to retain " the whole of it, if he had though 
fit, though he would not permit his prevarication to go 

You have remarked, that " the feasts of love, the 
ago/pa, as they were called, constituted a very plea 
ing and essential part of public worship." Lest ar 
one should from hence be led to suspect that these 
feasts of love, this pleasing part of the public worshi] 
of the primitive church, resembled the unhallowec 
meetings of some impure sectaries of our own times 
I will take the liberty to add to your account a shor 
explication of the nature of these agapae. Tertullian 
in the 39th chapter of his Apology, has done it to my 
hands. " The nature of our supper," says he, " is in- 
dicated by its name ; it is called by a word which, in 
the Greek language, signifies love. We are not anx- 
jous about expense of the entertainment, since we 
look upon that as gain which is expended, with a pi- 
ous purpose, in the relief and refreshment of all our 
indigent. The occasion of our entertainment being 


so honorable, you may judge of the manner of its be- 
ing conducted : it consists in the discharge of religious 
duties ; it admits nothing vile, nothing immodest. Be- 
fore we sit down, prayer is made to God. The hungry 
eat as much as they desire, and every one drinks as 
much as can be useful to sober men. We so feast 
as men who have their minds impressed with the 
idea of spending the night in the worship of God ; we 
so converse as men who are conscious that the Lord 
heareth them," &c. Perhaps you may object to this 
testimony in favor of the innocence of Christian meet- 
ings as liable to a partiality, because it is the testi- 
mony of a Christian; and you may, perhaps, be able 
to pick out, from the writings of this Christian, some- 
thing that look? like a contradiction of this account : 
however, I will rest the matter upon this testimony 
for the present ; forbearing to quote any other Chris- 
tian writer upon the subject, as I shall, in a future 
letter, produce you a testimony superior to every ob- 
jection. You speak too of the agapse as an essential 
part of the public worship. This is not according to 
your usual accuracy ; for, had they been essential, the 
edict of a heathen magistrate would not have been 
able to put a stop to them ; yet Pliny, in his letter to 
Trajan, expressly says, that the Christians left them 
off upon his publishing an edict prohibiting assemblies. 
We know that in the council of Carthage, in the fourth 
century, on account of the abuses which attended them, 
they began to be interdicted, and ceased, almost uni- 
versally, in the fifth. 

I have but two observations to make upon what you 
have advanced concerning the severity of ecclesiasti- 
cal penance : the first is, that even you yourself do not 

52 WATSON'S [234 

deduce its institution from the Scriptures, but from the 
power which every voluntary society has over its own 
members ; and, therefore, however extravagant, or 
however absurd however opposite to the attributes 
of a commiserating God, or the feelings of a fallible 
man, it may be thought ; or upon whatever trivial oc- 
casion, such as that you mention, of calumniating a 
bishop, a presbyter, or even a deacon, it may have been 
inflicted, Christ and his apostles are not answerable 
for it. The other is, that it was, of all possible expe- 
dients, the least fitted to accomplish the end for which 
you think it was introduced, the propagation of Chris- 
tianity. The sight of a penitent, humbled by a public 
confession, emaciated by fasting, clothed in sackcloth, 
prostrated at the door of the assembly, and imploring 
for years together the pardon of his offences, and a re- 
admission into the bosom of the church, was a much 
more likely means of deterring the Pagans from Chris- 
tian community, than the pious liberality you mention 
was of alluring them into it. This pious liberality, sir, 
would exhaust even your elegant powers of descrip- 
tion, before you could exhibit it in the amiable man- 
ner it deserves. It is derived from the " new command- 
ment of loving one another ;" and it has ever been the 
distinguishing characteristic of Christians, as opposed 
to every other denomination of men, Jews, Mahome- 
dans, or Pagans. In the times of the apostles, and in 
the first ages of the church, it showed itself in volun- 
tary contributions for the relief of the poor and the 
persecuted, the infirm and the unfortunate. As soon as 
the church was permitted to have permanent posses- 
sions in land, and acquired the protection of the civil 
power, it exerted itself in the erection of hospital* of 


every kind ; institutions like these, of charity and hu- 
manity, which were forgotten in the laws of Solon and 
Lycurgus ; and for even one example of which, you 
will, I believe, in vain explore the boasted annals of 
Pagan Rome. Indeed, sir, you will think too injuri- 
ously of this liberality, if you look upon its origin as 
superstitious, or upon its application a s an artifice of 
the priesthood to seduce the indigent into the bosom 
of the church : it was the pure and unc orrupted fruit 
of genuine Christianity. 

You are much surprised, and not a little concerned, 
that Tacitus and the younger Pliny hare spoken so 
slightly of the Christian system ; and th? t t Seneca and 
the elder Pliny have not vouchsafed to mention it at 
all. This difficulty seems to have struck others as 
well as yourself; and I might refer you to the conclu- 
sion of the second volume of Dr. Lardner's Collection 
of Ancient, Jewish, and Heathen Testimonies to the 
Truth of the Christian Religion, for full satisfaction 
in this point ; but perhaps an observation or two may 
be sufficient to diminish your surprise. 

Obscure sectaries of upright morals, when they se- 
parate themselves from the religion of their country, 
do not speedily acquire the attention of men of letters* 
The historians are apprehensive of depreciating the 
dignity of their learned labor, and contaminating their 
splendid narration of illustrious events, by mixing with 
it a disgusting detail of religious combinations ; and 
the philosophers are usually too deeply engaged in ab- 
stract science, or in exploring the infinite intricacy of 
natural appearances, to busy themselves with what 
they, perhaps hastily, esteem popular superstitions. 
Historians and philosophers, of no mean reputation. 

54 WATSON'S f236 

might be mentioned, I believe, who were the contem- 
poraries of Luther and the first reformers ; and who 
have passed over, in negligent or contemptuous silence, 
their daring and unpopular attempts to shake the stabi- 
lity of St. Peter's chair. Opposition to the religion oJ 
a people must become general before it can deserve 
the notice of the civil magistrate ; and till it does that, 
it will mostly be thought below the animadversion ol 
distinguished writers. This remark is peculiarly ap- 
plicable to the case in point. The first Christians, as 
Christ had foretold, were " hated of all men for his 
name's sake :" it was the name itself, not any vices 
adhering to the name, which Pliny punished ; and they 
were every where held in exceeding contempt, till theii 
numbers excited the apprehension of the ruling powers. 
The philosophers considered them as enthusiasts, and 
neglected them; the priests opposed them as innova- 
ters, and calumniated them ; the great overlooked them ; 
the learned despised them ; and the curious alone, who 
examined into the foundation of their faith, believed 
them. But the negligence of some half dozen of wri- 
ters (most of them, however, bear incidental testimony 
to the truth of several facts respecting Christianity) 
in not relating circumstantially the origin, the pro- 
gress, and the pretensions of a new sect, is a very in- 
sufficient reason for questioning, either the evidence 
of the principles upon which it was built, or the su- 
pernatural power by which it was supported. 

The Roman historians, moreover, were not only cul- 
pably incurious concerning the Christians, but unpar- 
donably ignorant of what concerned either them or the 
Jews : I say, unpardonably ignorant, because the means 
of information were within their reach ; the writings 


of Moses were every where to be had in Greek ; and 
the works of Josephus were published before Tacitus 
wrote his history ; and yet even Tacitus has fallen into 
great absurdity, and self-contradiction, in his account 
of the Jews ; and though Tertullian's zeal carried him 
much too far, when he called him Mendaciorum lo- 
quacissimus, [the most loquacious of liars,] yet one 
cannot help regretting the little pains he took to ac- 
quire proper information upon that subject. He de- 
rives the name of the Jews, by a forced interpolation, 
from mount Ida in Crete ; and he represents them as 
abhorring all kinds of images in public worship, and 
yet accuses them of having placed the image of an ass 
in the holy of holies ; and presently after he tells us, 
that Pompey, when he profaned the temple, found the 
sanctuary entirely empty. Similar inaccuracies might 
be noticed in Plutarch, and other writers who have 
spoken of the Jews ; and you yourself have referred 
to an obscure passage in Suetonius, as offering a 
proof how strangely the Jews and Christians of Rome 
were confounded with each other. Why, then, should 
we think it remarkable, that a few celebrated writers, 
who looked upon the Christians as an obscure sect of 
the Jews, and upon the Jews as a barbarous and de- 
tested people, whose history was not worth the peru- 
sal, and who were moreover engaged in the relation 
of the great events which either occasioned or accom- 
panied the ruin of their eternal empire ; why should 
we be surprised that men occupied in such interesting 
subjects, and influenced by such inveterate prejudices, 
should have left us but short and imperfect descrip- 
tions of the Christian system? 

c But how shall we excuse." you say, " the supine 

56 WATSON'S [23S 

inattention of the Pagan and philosophic world to those 
evidences which were presented by the hand of Om- 
nipotence, not to their reason but to their senses ?" 
" The laws of nature were perpetually suspended for 
the benefit of the church ; but the sages of Greece and 
Rome turned aside from the awful spectacle." To 
their shame be it spoken, that they did so ; " and, pur- 
suing the ordinary occupations of life and study, ar> 
peared unconscious of any alterations in the moral or 
physical government of the world." To this objection 
I answer, in the first place, that we have no reason to 
believe that miracles were performed as often as the 
philosophers deigned to give their attention to them ; 
or that, at the period of time you allude to, the laws of 
nature were " perpetually " suspended for the benefit 
of the church. It may be, that not one of the few hea- 
then writers, whose books have escaped the ravages 
of time, was ever present when a miracle was wrought ; 
but will it follow, because Pliny, or Plutarch, or Galen, 
or Seneca, or Suetonius, or Tacitus, had never seen 
a miracle, that no miracles were ever performed? 
They, indeed, were learned and observant men ; and 
it may be a matter of surprise to us, that miracles so 
celebrated, as the friends of Christianity suppose the 
Christian ones to have been, should never have been 
mentioned by them, though they had not seen them. 
Had an Adrian, or a Vespasian been the author of but 
a thousandth part of the miracles you have ascribed 
to the primitive church, more than one, probably, oi 
these very historians, philosophers as they were, would 
have adorned his history with the narration of them; 
for though they turned aside from the awful spectacle 
of the miracles of a poor despised apostle, yet they 


beheld, with exulting complacency, and have related, 
with unsuspecting credulity, the ostentatious tricks of 
a Roman emperor. It was not for want of faith in mi- 
raculous events that these sages neglected the Chris- 
tian miracles, but for want of candor and impartial ex- 

I answer, in the second place, that in the Acts of 
the Apostles we have an account of a great multitude 
of Pagans of every condition of life, who were so far 
from being inattentive to the evidences which were 
presented by the hand of Omnipotence to their senses, 
that they contemplated them with reverence and won- 
der ; and, forsaking the religion of their ancestors, and 
all the flattering hopes of worldly profit, reputation, 
and tranquility, adhered with astonishing resolution 
to the profession of Christianity. From the conclusion 
of the Acts, till the time in which some of the sages 
you mention flourished, is a very obscure part of church 
history ; yet we are certain, that many of the Pagan, 
and we have some reason to believe, that not a few 
of the philosophic world, during that period, did not 
turn aside from the awful spectacle of miracles, but 
saw, and believed : and that a few others should be 
found, who probably had never seen, and therefore 
would not believe, is surely no very extraordinary cir- 
cumstance. Why should we not answer to objections 
such as these with the boldness of St. Jerome ; and 
bid Celsus, and Porphyry, and Julian, and their fol- 
lowers, learn the illustrious characters of the men who 
(founded, built up, and adorned the Christian ckurch? 
Why should we not tell them, with Arnobius, of the 
orators, the grammarians, the rhetoricians, the law- 

ers, the physicians, the philosophers, " who appeared 

58 WATSON'S [240 

conscious of the alterations in the moral and physical 
government of the world ;" and from that conscious- 
ness, forsook the ordinary occupations of life and study, 
and attached themselves to the Christian discipline? 
I answer, in the last place, that the miracles of Chris- 
tians were falsely attributed to magic ; and were, for 
that reason / thought unworthy the notice of the writers 
you have referred to. Suetonius, in his life of Nero, 
calls the Christians men of a new and a magical su- 
perstition. I am sensible that you laugh at those 
" sagacious commentators " who translate the original 
word by magical; and, adopting the idea of Mosheim, 
you think it ought to be rendered mischievous or per* 
nicious : unquestionably it frequently has that mean- 
ing ; with due deference, however, to Mosheim and 
yourself, I cannot help being of opinion, that in this 
place, as descriptive of the Christian religion, it is 
rightly translated magical. The Theodosian Code 
must be my excuse for dissenting from such respecta- 
ble authority ; and in it I conjecture you will find good 
reason for being of my opinion. Nor ought any friend 
to Christianity to be astonished or alarmed at Sueto- 
nius applying the word magical to the Christian reli- 
gion; for the miracles wrought by Christ and his apos- 
tles principally consisted in alleviating the distresses 
by curing the obstinate diseases of human kind ; and 
the proper meaning of magic, as understood by the an- 
cients, is a higher and more holy branch of the art ot 
healing. The elder Pliny lost his life in an eruption 
of Mount Vesuvius, about forty-seven years after the 
death of Christ : some fifteen years before the death 
of Pliny, the Christians were persecuted at Rome for 
a crime of which every person knew them innocent ; 

24 1 J REPLY TO GIBBOtf. 59 

but from the description which Tacitus gives of the 
low estimation they were held in at that time, (for 
which, however, he assigns no cause, and therefore 
we may reasonably conjecture it was the same for 
which the Jews were every where become so odious 3 
an opposition to polytheism,) and of the extreme suf- 
ferings they underwent, we cannot be much surprised 
that their name is not to be found in the works of 
Pliny or of Seneca : the sect itself must, by Nero s 
persecution, have been almost destroyed in Rome 5 
and it would have been uncourtly, not to say unsafe, 
to have noticed an order of men whose innocence an 
emperor had determined to traduce, in order to divert 
the dangerous but deserved stream of popular censure 
from himself. Notwithstanding this, there is a pas- 
sage in the Natural History of Pliny which, how 
much soever it may have been overlooked, contains, 
I think, a very strong allusion to the Christians, and 
clearly intimates he had heard of their miracles. la 
speaking concerning the origin of magic, he says: 
there is also another faction of magic, derived from 
the Jews, Moses, and Lotopea, and subsisting at pre^ 
sent. The word faction does not ill denote the opi- 
inion the Romans entertained of the religious associa-^ 
tions of the Christians ; and a magical faction implies 
their pretensions, at least, to the miraculous gifts of 
healing ; and its descending from Moses is according 
to the custom of the Romans, by which they con- 
founded the Christians with the Jews ; and its being 
then subsisting seems to have a strong reference to 
the rumors Pliny had negligently heard reported of 
'the Christians. 

Submitting each of these answers to your cool and 

60 WATSON'S [242 

candid consideration, I proceed to take notice of ano- 
ther difficulty in your fifteenth chapter, which some 
have thought one of the most important in your whole 
book ; the silence of profane historians concerning the 
preternatural darkness at the crucifixion of Christ. 
You know, sir, that several learned men are of opi- 
nion, that profane history is not silent upon this sub- 
ject; I will neither trouble you with the testimony 
of Phlegon. nor with the appeal of Tertullian to the 
public registers of the Romans ; but, meeting you upon 
your own ground, and granting you every thing you 
desire, I will endeavor, from a fair and candid exami- 
nation of the history of this event, to suggest a doubt, 
at least to your mind, whether this was " the greatest 
phenomenon to which the mortal eye has been wit- 
ness since the creation of the globe." 

This darkness is mentioned by three of the four 
evangelists ; St. Matthew thus expresses himself: 
" Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over 
all the land until the ninth hour;" St. Mark says: 
" And when the sixth hour was come there was dark- 
ness over the whok land until the ninth hour;" St. 
Luke : " And it was about the sixth hour, and there 
was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour; 
and the sun was darkened." The three evangelists 
agree that there was darkness ; and they agree in the 
extent of the darkness : for it is the same expression 
in the original, which our translators have rendered 
earth in Luke, and land in the two other accounts; 
and they agree in the duration of the darkness it 
lasted three hours. Luke adds a particular circum- 
stance, "that the sun was darkened." I do not know 
whether this event be any where else mentioned in 


Scripture, so that our inquiry can neither be extensive 
nor difficult. 

In philosophical propriety of speech, darkness con- 
sists in the total absence of light, and admits of no 
degrees; however, in the more common acceptation 
of the word, there are degrees of darkness as well as 
of light ; and as the evangelists have said nothing, by 
which the particular degree of darkness can be deter- 
mined, we have as much reason to suppose it was 
slight, as you have that it was excessive; but if it was 
slight, though it had extended itself over the surface 
of the whole globe, the difficulty of its not being re- 
corded by Pliny or Seneca vanishes at once. Do you 
not perceive,' sir, upon what a slender foundation this 
mighty objection is grounded, when we have only to 
put you upon proving that the darkness at the cruci- 
fixion was of so unusual a nature as to have excited 
the particular attention of all mankind, or even of 
those who were witnesses to it ? But I do not mean 
to deal so logically with you ; rather give me leave 
to spare you the trouble of your proof, by proving or 
showing the probability, at least, of the direct con- 
trary. There is a circumstance mentioned by St. John 
which seems to indicate that the darkness was not so 
excessive as is generally supposed ; for it is probable 
that during the continuance of the darkness, Jesus 
spoke both to his mother, and to his beloved disciple, 
whom he saw from the cross ; they were near the 
cross ; but the soldiers which surrounded it must have 
kept them at too great a distance for Jesus to have 
seen them and known them, had the darkness at the 
crucifixion been excessive, like the preternatural dark- 
ness which God brought upon the land of Egypt ; for 

62 WATSON'S [244 

it is expressly said, that during the continuance of 
that darkness, "they saw not one another." The ex- 
pression in St. Luke, " the sun was darkened," tends 
rather to confirm than to overthrow this reasoning, j 
am sensible this expression is generally equivalent to 
another ; the sun was eclipsed : but the Bible is open 
to us all ; and there can be no presumption in endea- 
voring to investigate the meaning of Scripture for our- 
selves. Happily for the present argumentation, the 
very phrase of the sun's being darkened, occurs, in so 
many words, in one other place (and in only one) of 
the New Testament; and from that place you may 
possibly see reason to imagine that the darkness might 
not, perhaps, have been so intense as to deserve the 
particular notice of the Roman naturalists : " And he 
opened the bottomless pit, and there arose a smoke 
out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace ; and 
the sur^ was darkened, and the air, by reason of the 
smoke of the pit." If we should say, that the sun at 
the crucifixion was obnubilated, and darkened by the 
intervention of clouds, as it is here represented to be 
by the intervention of a smoke, like the smoke of a 
furnace, I do not see what you could object to our ac- 
count ; but such a phenomenon has surely no right to 
be esteemed the greatest that mortal eye has ever be- 
held. I may be mistaken in this interpretation ; but I 
have no design to misrepresent the fact in order to 
get rid of a difficulty: the darkness may have been as 
intense as many commentators have supposed it ; but 
neither they nor you can prove it was so ; and I am 
surely under no necessity, upon this occasion, of 
granting you, out of deference to any commentator, 
what you can neither prove nor render probable. 


But you still, perhaps, may think that he darkness, 
by its extent, made up for this deficiency in point of 
intenseness. The original word, expressive of its ex- 
tent, is sometimes interpreted by the whole earth; 
more frequently, in the New-Testament, of any little 
portion of the earth : for we read of the land of Judalu 
of the land of Israel, of the land of Zabulon, and of 
the land of Nephthalim ; and it may very properly I 
conceive, be translated in the place in question by re- 
gion. But why should all the world take notice of a 
darkness which extended itself for a few miles about 
Jerusalem, and lasted but three hours ? The Italians, 
especially, had no reason to remark the event as sin- 
gular ; since they were accustomed at that time, as 
they are at present, to see the neighboring regions so 
darkened for days together by the eruptions of Etna 
and Vesuvius, that no man could know his neighbor. 
We learn from the Scripture account, that an earth- 
quake accompanied this darkness ; and a dark clouded 
sky, I apprehend, very frequently precedes an earth- 
quake ; but its extent is not great, nor is its intense- 
ness excessive, nor is the phenomenon itself so unu- 
sual as not commonly to pass unnoticed in ages of 
science and history. I fear I may be liable to misre- 
Dresentation in this place ; but I beg it may be ob- 
served, that however slight in degree, or however 
confined in extent the darkness at the crucifixion may 
have been, I am of opinion that the power of God 
was as supernaturally exerted in its production and 
in that of the earthquake which accompanied it, as in 
the opening of the graves, and the resurrection of the 
saints, which followed the resurrection of Christ. 

In another place, you seem not to believe " that 

64 WATSON'S [246 

Pontius Pilate informed the emperor of the unjust 
sentence of death which he had pronounced against 
an innocent person." And the same reason which 
made him silent as to the death, ought, one would 
suppose, to have made him silent as to the miraculous 
events which accompanied it; and if Pilate, in his 
dispatches to the emperor, transmitted no account of 
the darkness (how great soever you suppose it to have 
been) which happened in a distant province, I can- 
not apprehend that the report of it could have ever 
gained such credit at Rome as to induce either Pliny 
or Seneca to mention it as an authentic fact. I am, &e. 


SIR: I mean not to detain you long with my re- 
marks upon your sixteenth chapter; for in a short 
Apology for Christianity, it cannot be expected that I 
should apologize at length for the indiscretions of the 
first Christians. Nor have I any disposition to reap a 
malicious pleasure from exaggerating, which you have 
had so much good-natured pleasure in extenuating, 
the truculent barbarity of their Roman persecutors. 

M. de Voltaire has embraced every opportunity of 
contrasting the persecuting temper of the Christians 
with the mild tolerance of the ancient heathens ; and 
I never read a page of his upon this subject without 
thinking Christianity materially, if not intentionally, 
obliged to him, for his endeavor to depress the lofty 
spirit of religious bigotry. I may with justice pay the 
same compliment to you ; and I do it with sincerity , 
heartily wishing that, in the prosecution of your work, 
you may render every species of intolerance univer- 


sally detestable. There is no reason why you should 
abate the asperity of your invective, since no one can 
suspect you of a design to traduce Christianity under 
the guise of a zeal against persecution ; or if any one 
should be so simple, he need but open the Gospel to 
be convinced that such a scheme is too palpably a v o- 
surd to have ever entered the head of any sensible and 
impartial man. 

I wish, for the credit of human nature, that I could 
find reason to agree with you in what you have said 
of the " universal toleration of Polytheism ; of the 
mild indifference of antiquity ; of the Roman princes 
beholding without concern a thousand forms of reli- 
gion subsisting in peace under their gentle sway." 
But there are some passages in the Roman history 
which make me hesitate at least in this point, and al- 
most induce me to believe that the Romans were ex- 
ceedingly jealous of all foreign religions, whether they 
were accompanied with immoral manners or not. 

It was the Roman custom, indeed, to invite the tu- 
telary gods of the nations, which they intended to sub- 
due, to abandon their charge, and to promise them the 
same, or even a more august worship, in the city of 
! Rome ; and their triumphs were graced as much with 
the exhibition of their captive gods, as with the less 
| humane one of their captive kings. But this custom, 
'though it filled the city with hundreds of gods of every 
country, denomination, and quality, cannot be brought 
ias a proof of Roman toleration ; it may indicate the 
'excess of their vanity, the extent of their superstition, 
jor the refinement of their policy ; but it can never show 
jthat the religion of individuals, when it differed from 
i public wisdom, was either connived at as a matter ;jf 

66 WATSON'S [2 

indifference, or tolerated as an inalienable right of h 
man nature. 

Upon another occasion, you, sir, have referred to 
Livy as relating the introduction and suppression of 
the rites of Bacchus ; and in that very place we find 
him confessing, that the prohibiting of all foreign re- 
ligions, and abolishing every mode of sacrifice which 
differed from the Roman mode, was a business fre- 
quently intrusted by their ancestors to the care of the 
proper magistrates; and he gives this reason for the 
procedure : that nothing could contribute more effec- 
tually to the ruin of religion than the sacrificing after 
an external rite, and not after the manner instituted 
by their fathers. 

Not thirty years before this event, the Praetor, in 
conformity to a decree of the senate, had issued an 
edict, that no one should presume to sacrifice in any 
public place after a new or foreign manner. And in a 
still more early period, the asdiles had been command- 
ed to take care that no gods were worshiped except 
the Roman gods ; and that the Roman gods were wor- 
shiped after no manner but the established manner 
of the country. 

But to come nearer to the times of which you are 
writing. In Dion Cassius you may meet with a great 
courtier, one of the interior cabinet, and a polished 
statesman, in a set speech upon the most momentous 
subject, expressing himself to the emperor in a man- 
ner agreeable enough to the practice of antiquity, but 
utterly inconsistent with the most remote idea of reli- 
gious toleration. The speech alluded to contains, I 
confess, nothing more than the advice of an indivi- 
dual ; but it ought to be remembered that that indivi- 


dual was Maecenas, that the advice was given to Au- 
gustus, and that the occasion of giving it was no less 
important than settling the form of the Roman govern- 
ment. He recommends it to Caesar to worship the 
gods himself according to the established form, and lo 
force all others to do the same, and to hate and to 
punish all those who should attempt to introduce fo- 
reign religions ; nay, he bids him, in the same place, 
have an eye upon the philosophers also : so that free 
thinking, free speaking at least, upon religious mat- 
ters, was not quite so safe under the gentle sway of 
the Roman princes as, thank God, it is under the 
much more gentle government of our own. 

In the Edict of Toleration, published by Galerius af- 
jter six years unremitted persecution of the Christians, 
we perceive his motive for persecution to have been 
ithe same with that which had influenced the conduct 
of the more ancient Romans, an abhorrence of all in- 
inovations in religion. You have favored us with the 
|translation of this edict, in which he says, " we were 
iparticularly desirous of reclaiming into the way of rea- 
son and nature," ad bonas mentes (a good pretence 
this for a polytheistic persecutor) " the deluded Chris- 
tians, who had renounced the religion and ceremonies 
instituted by their fathers :" this is the precise lan- 
guage of Livy, describing a persecution of a foreign 
religion three hundred years before, " turba erat nee 
^acrificantium nee precantium deos patrio more." And 
the very expedient of forcing the Christians to deliver 
|jp their religious books, which was practiced in this 
'persecution, and which Mosheim attributes to the ad- 
Hce of Hierocles, and you to tnat of the philosophers 
|>f those times, seems clear to me, from the places 

68 WATSON'S [250 

in Livy before quoted, to have been nothing but an 
old piece of state policy, to which the Romans had 
recourse as often as they apprehended their established 
religion to be in any danger. 

In the preamble of the letter of toleration, which 
the emperor Maximin reluctantly wrote to Sabinus 
about a year after the publication of Galenus's Edict, 
there is a plain avowal of the reasons which induced 
Galerius and Diocletian to commence their persecu- 
tion ; they had seen the temples of the gods forsaken, 
and were determined by the severity of punishment 
to reclaim men to their worship. 

In short, the system recommended by Maecenas, of 
forcing every person to be of the emperor's religion, 
and of hating and punishing every innovator, contain 
ed no new doctrine : it was correspondent to the prac- 
tice of the Roman senate, in the most illustrious times 
of the republic, and seems to have been generally 
adopted by the emperors iu their treatment of Chris- 
tians, whilst they themselves were pagans; and in 
their treatment of pagans, after they themselves be- 
came Christians ; and if any one should be willing to 
derive those laws against heretics (which are so ab- 
horrent from the mild spirit of the Gospel, and so re- 
proachful to the Roman code) frorn the blind adhe- 
rence of the Christian emperors to the intolerant po- 
licy of their pagan predecessors, something, I think, 
might be produced in support of his conjecture. 

But I am sorry to have said so much upon such a 
subject. In endeavoring to palliate the severity of the 
Romans towards the Christians, you have remarked, 
t; It was in vain that the oppressed believer asserted 
the inalienable rights of conscience and private judg 


rnent." " Though his situation might excite the pity, 
his arguments could never reach the understanding, 
either of the philosophic, or of the believing part of the 
pagan world." How is this, sir? are the arguments 
for liberty of conscience so exceedingly inconclusive 
that you think them incapable of reaching the under- 
standing, even of philosophers ? A captious adversary 
would embrace with avidity the opportunity this pas- 
sage affords him, of blotting your character with the 
j odious stain of being a persecutor; a stain which no 
learning can wipe out, which no genius or ability can 
render amiable. I am far from entertaining such an 
opinion of your principles ; but this conclusion seems 
i fairly deducible from what you have said, that the 
minds of the pagans were so pre-occupied with the 
I notions of forcing, and hating, and punishing those 
I who differed from them in religion; that arguments for 
i the inalienable rights of conscience, which would have 
co:.v r inced yourself, and every philosopher in Europe, 
| and staggered the resolution of an inquisitor, were in- 
! capable of reaching their understandings, or making 
any impression on their hearts ; and you might, per- 
| haps, have spared yourself some perplexity in the in- 
vestigation of the motives which induced the Roman 
i emperors to persecute, and the Roman people to hate 
the Christians, if you had not overlooked the true one, 
land adopted with too great facility the erroneous idea 
of the extreme tolerance of pagan Rome. 

The Christians, you observe, were accused of athe- 
ism : and it must be owned that they were the greatest 
i of ail atheists, in the opinion of the polytheists; for, 
'instead of Hesiod's thirty thousand gods, they could 
i not be brought to acknowledge above one ; and even 

70 WATSON J s 

that one they refused, at the hazard of their lives, to 
blaspheme with the appellation of Jupiter. But is it 
not somewhat singular, that the pretensions of the 
Christians to a constant intercourse with superior be- 
ings, in the working of miracles, should have been a 
principal cause of converting to their faith those who 
branded them with the imputation of atheism '? 

They were accused, too, of forming dangerous con- 
spiracies against the state : this accusation, you own, 
was as unjust as the preceding : but there seems to 
have been a peculiar hardship in the situation of the 
Christians, since the very same men who thought 
them dangerous to the state, on account of their con- 
spiracies, condemned them, as you have observed, for 
not interfering in its concerns ; for their criminal dis- 
regard to the business of war and government, and for 
their entertaining doctrines which were supposed " to 
prohibit them from assuming the character of soldisrs, 
of magistrates, and of princes :" men, such as these, 
would have made but poor conspirators. 

They were accused, lastly, of the most horrid crimes. 
This accusation, it is confessed, was mere calumny; 
yet as calumny is generally more extensive in its influ- 
ence than truth, perhaps this calumny might be more 
powerful in stopping the progress of Christianity than 
the virtues of the Christians were in promoting it ; and, 
in truth, Origen observes, that the Christians, on ac- 
count of the crimes which were maliciously laid to 
their charge, were held in such ab-horrence that no one 
would so much as speak to them. It may be worth 
while to remark from him, that the Jews, in the very 
beginning of Christianity, were the authors of all those 
calumnies which Celsus afterwards took such great 


delight in urging against the Christians, and which 
you have mentioned with such great precision. 

It is no improbable supposition, that the clandestine 
manner in which the persecuting spirit of the Jews 
and Gentiles obliged the Christians to celebrate their 
eucharist, together with the expressions of eating the 
body and drinking the blood of Christ, which were 
u^ed in its institution, and the custom of imparting a 
kiss of charity to each other, and of calling each other 
by the appellations of brother and sister, (which the 
Romans often used in an impure sense,) gave occa- 
sions to their enemies to invent, and induced careless 
observers to believe, all the odious things which were 
said against the Christians. 

You have displayed at length, in expressive diction, 
the accusations of the enemies of Christianity ; and 
you have told us of the imprudent defence by which 
the Christians vindicated the purity of their morals ; 
and you have huddled up in a short note (which many 
a reader will never see) the testimony of Pliny to 
their innocence. Permit me to do the Christians a lit- 
tle justice, by producing in their cause the whole truth. 

.Between seventy and eighty years after the death 
of Christ, Pliny had occasion to consult the emperor 
Trajan concerning the manner in which he should 
treat the Christians ; it seems as if there had been ju- 
dicial proceedings against them, though Pliny had 
never happened to attend any of them. He knew^ in- 
ideed, that men were to be punished for being Chris- 
tians, or he would not, as a sensible magistrate, have 
jreceived the accusations of legal, much less of illegal, 
(anonymous informers against them ; nor would he, be- 
fore he wrote to the emperor, have put to death those 


72 WATSON'S [254 

whom his threats could not hinder from persevering in 
their confession that they were Christians. His harsh 
manner of proceeding "in an office the most repug- 
nant to his humanity," had made many apostatize from 
their profession. Persons of this complexion were well 
fitted to inform him of every thing they knew concern- 
ing the Christians ; accordingly, he examined them, 
but not one of them accused the Christians of any 
other crime than of praying to Christ, as to some God, 
and of binding themselves by an oath not to be guilty 
of any wickedness. Not contented with this informa- 
tion, he put two maid servants, which were called mi- 
nisters, to the torture ; but even the rack could not 
extort from the imbecility of the sex a confession of 
any crime, any account different from that which the 
apostates had voluntarily given ; not a word do we find 
of their feasting upon murdered infants, or of their 
mixing in incestuous commerce. After all his pains, 
Pliny pronounced the meal of the Christians to be pro- 
miscuous and innocent ; persons of both sexes, of ail 
ages, and of every condition, assembled promiscuously 
together; there was nothing for chastity to blush at, 
for humanity to shudder at in these meetings : the! 
was no secret initiation of proselytes by abhorred rit 
but they ate a promiscuous meal in Christian chari 
and with the most perfect innocence. Plin. Epis. 
lib. 10. 

Whatever faults, then, the Christians may have been 
guilty of in after-times though you could produce to 
us a thousand ambitious prelates of Carthage, or sen- 
sual ones of Antioch, and blot ten thousand pages with 
the impurities of the Christian clergy, yet, at this pe- 
riod, while the memory of Christ and his apostles was 


fresh in their minds or, in the more emphatic lan- 
guage of Jerome, " while the blood of our Lord was 
warm, and recent faith was fervent in the believers," 
we have the greatest reason to conclude that they were 
eminently distinguished for the probity and the purity 
of their lives. Had there been but a shadow of a crime 
in their assemblies, it must have been detected by the 
industrious search of the intelligent Pliny ; and it is 
a matter of real surprise that no one of the apostates 
thought of paying court to the governor by a false tes- 
timony, especially as the apostacy seems to have been 
exceeding general ; since the temples, which had been 
almost deserted, began again to be frequented; and 
the victims, for which a little time before scarce a 
>urchaser was to be found, began again every where 
to be bought up. This, sir, is a valuable testimony in 
our favor ; it is not that of a declaiming apologist, of 
a deluding priest, or of a deluded martyr of an ortho 
dox bishop, or of any "of the most pious of men," the 
Christians ; but it is that of a Roman magistrate, phi- 
osopher, and lawyer, who cannot be supposed to have 
wanted inclination to detect the immoralities or the 
conspiracies of the Christians, since, in his treatment 
of them, he had stretched the authority of his of- 
fice and violated" alike the laws of his country and of 

With this testimony I will conclude my remarks, 
for I have no disposition to blacken the character you 
lave given of Nero ; or to lessen the humanity of the 
[loman magistrates; or to magnify the number of 
Christians or of martyrs; or to undertake the defence 
of a few fanatics, who by their injudicious zeal brought 
ruin upon themselves and disgrace upon their profes- 

74 WATSON'S [256 

sion. I may not, probably, have convinced you that 
you are wrong in any thing which you have advanced, 
or that the authors you have quoted will not support 
you in the inferences you have drawn from their works ; 
or that Christianity ought to be distinguished from its 
corruptions ; yet I may, perhaps, have had the good 
fortune to lessen, in the minds of others, some of that 
dislike to the Christian religion which the perusal of 
your book had unhappily excited. I have touched but 
upon general topics, for I should have wearied out your 
patience, to say nothing of my reader's, or my own, had 
I enlarged upon every thing in which I dissent from 
you; and a minute examination of your work would, 
moreover, have had the appearance of a captious dis- 
position to descend into illiberal personalities, and 
might have produced a certain acrimony of sentiment 
or expression which may be serviceable in supplying 
the place of argument, or adding a zest to a dull com- 
position, but has nothing to do with the investigation 
of truth. Sorry shall I be if what I have written should 
give the least interruption to the prosecution of the 
great work in which you are engaged. The world is 
now possessed of the opinion of us both upon the sub- 
ject in question, and it may, perhaps, be proper for us 
both to leave it in this state. I say not this from any 
backwardness to acknowledge my mistakes, when I 
am convinced that I am in an error, but to express the 
almost insuperable reluctance which I feel to the ban- 
dying abusive argument in public controversy. It is 
not, in good truth, a difficult task to chastise the fro- 
ward petulence of those who mistake personal invec- 
tive for reasoning, and clumsy banter for ingenuity ; 
but it is a dirty business at best, and should never be 


undertaken by a man of any temper except when the 
merest* of truth may suffer by his neglect. Nothing 
of this nature, I am sensible, is to be expected from 
you ; and if any thing of the kind has happened to 
escape myself, I hereby disclaim the intention of say- 
ng it, and heartily wish it unsaid. 

Will you permit me, sir, through this channel (I 
may not, perhaps, have another so good an opportunity 
of doing it) to address a few words, not to yourself, 
>ut to a set of men who disturb all serious company 
with their profane declamation against Christianity ; 
and who, having picked up in their travels, or in the 
writings of the Deists, a few flimsy objections, infect, 
with their ignorant and irreverent ridicule, the inge- 
nuous minds of the rising generation ? 


GENTLEMEN, Suppose the mighty work accom- 
plished, the cross trampled upon, Christianity every- 
where proscribed, and the religion of nature once more 
become the religion of Christendom ; what advantage 
will you have derived to your country, or to your- 
selves, from the exchange? I know your answer: 
you will have freed the world from the hypocrisy of 
priests, and the tyranny of superstition. No ; you 
forget that Lycurgus, and Numa, and Odin, and Man- 
go-Copac, and all the great legislators of ancient and 
modern story, have been of opinion that the affairs 
of civil society could not well be conducted without 
some religion ; you must of necessity introduce a 
(priesthood, with probably as much hypocrisy; a reli- 

76 . WATSON'S [258 

gion with assuredly more superstition, than that 
which you now reprobate with such indecent and ill- 
grounded contempt. But I will tell you from what 
you will have freed the world : you will have freed 
it from its abhorrence of vice, and from every power- 
ful incentive to virtue ; you will, with the religion, 
have brought back the depraved morality of Pagan- 
ism ; you will have robbed mankind of their firm 
assurance of another life, and thereby you will have 
despoiled them of their patience, of their humility, 
of their charity, of their chastity, of all those mild 
and silent virtues,, which (however despicable they 
may appear in your eyes) are the only ones which 
meliorate and sublime our nature ; which Paganism 
never knew, which spring from Christianity alone, 
which do or might constitute our comfort in this life, 
and without the possession of which, another life, 
if after all there should happen to be one, must (un- 
less a miracle be exerted in the alteration of our dis- 
position) be more vicious and more miserable than 
this is. 

Perhaps you will contend that the universal light 
of reason, that the truth and fitness of things, are of 
themselves sufficient to exalt the nature, and regulate 
the manners of mankind. Shall we never have done 
with this groundless commendation of natural law ? 
Look into the first chapter of Paul's Epistle to the 
Romans, and you will see the extent of its influence 
over the Gentiles of those days ; or if you dislike 
Paul's authority, and the manners of antiquity, look 
into the more admired accounts of modern voyagers ; 
and examine its influence over the pagans of our own 
times, over the sensual inhabitants of Otaheite, over 


the cannibals of New Zealand, or the remorseless 
savages of America. " But these men are barbarians." 
Your law of nature, notwithstanding, extends even 
to them. "But they have misused their reason:" 
they have then the more need of, and would be the 
more thankful for, that revelation which you, with an 
ignorant and fastidious self-sufficiency, deem useless. 
" But they might of themselves, if they thought fit, 
become wise and virtuous." I answer with Cicero, 
" Ut nihil interest, utrum nemo valeat, an nemo va- 
lere possit; sic non intelligo quid intersit, utrum 
nemo, sit sapiens, an nemo esse possit:" i. e. if they 
in fact continue in ignorance and vice, the evil is as 
great as if they had no means of learning a better 

These, however, you will think, are extraordinary 
instances : and that we ought not from these to take 
our measure of the excellency of the law of nature, 
but rather from the civilized states of China and 
I Japan, or from the nations which flourished in learn- 
ing and in arts before Christianity was heard of in 
the world. You mean to say, that by the law of na- 
jture, which you are desirous of substituting in the 
I room of the Gospel, you do not understand those rules 
i of conduct which an individual, abstracted from the 
i community, and deprived of the institution of man- 
jkind, could excogitate for himself: but such a system 
of precepts as the most enlightened men of the most 
enlightened ages have recommended to our observance. 
I Where do you find this system? We cannot meet 
with it in the works of Stobaeus, or the Scythian 
jAnacharsis ; nor in those of Plato, or Cicero ; nor in 

lose of the Emperor Antoninus, or the slave Epicte- 

78 WATSON'S [260 

tus ; for we are persuaded that the most animated 
consideration of the ^STOV, and the honeslum, of the 
beauty of virtue, and the fitness of things, are not 
able to furnish even a Brutus himself with perma- 
nent principles of action ; much less are they able to 
purify the polluted recesses of a vitiated heart, to 
curb the irregularity of appetite, or restrain the impe- 
tuosity of passion in common men. If you order us 
to examine the works of Grotius, or Puffendorf, or 
Burlamaqui, or Hutchinson, for what you understand 
by the law of nature, we apprehend that you are in 
a great error, in taking your notions of natural law, 
as discoverable by natural reason, from the elegant 
systems of it, which have been drawn up by Chris- 
tian philosophers ; since they have all laid their foun- 
dations, either tacitly or expressly, upon a principle 
derived from revelation ; a thorough knowledge of the 
being and attributes of God : and even those amongst 
yourselves who, rejecting Christianity, still continue 
theists, are indebted to revelation (whether you are 
either aware of, or disposed to acknowledge the debt, 
or not) for those sublime speculations concerning the 
Deity which you have fondly attributed to the excel- 
lency of your own unassisted reason. If you would 
know the real genius of natural law, and how far it 
can proceed in the investigation or enforcement of 
moral duties, you must consult the" manners and wri- 
tings of those who have never heard of either the 
Jewish or the Christian dispensation, or of those other 
manifestations of himself which God vouchsafed to 
Adam, and to the patriarchs before and after the flood. 
It would be difficult, perhaps, anywhere to find a peo- 
ple entirely destitute of traditionary notices concern- 


ing the Deity, and of traditionary fears or expectations 
of another life ; and the morals of mankind may have, 
perhaps, been nowhere quite so abandoned as they 
would have been, had they been left wholly to them- 
selves in these points : however, it is a truth which 
cannot be denied, how much soever it may be la- 
mented, that though the generality of mankind have 
always had some faint conceptions of God and his 
providence, yet they have been always greatly ineffi- 
cacious in the production of good morality, and highly 
derogatory to his nature, amongst all the people of the 
earth, except the Jews and Christians ; and some may 
perhaps be desirous of excepting the Mahomedans, 
jwho derive all that is good in their Koran from 
| Christianity. 

The laws concerning justice, and the reparation of 
I damages; concerning the security of property, and 
(the performance of contracts ; concerning, in short, 
whatever affects the well-being of civil society, have 
been everywhere understood with sufficient precision ; 
jand if you choose to style Justinian's code, a code of 
| natural law, though you will err against propriety of 
!|speech, yet you are so far in the right, that natural 
Bason discovered, and the depravity of human na- 
re compelled human kind to establish, by proper 
ictions, the laws therein contained ; and you will 
lave, moreover, Carneades, no mean philosopher, on 
side ; who knew of no law of nature different 
from that which men had institutued for their com- 
lon utility, and which was various according to the 
\anners of men in different climates, and changeable 
[vith a change of times in the same. And, in truth, 
all countries where Paganism has been the estab- 

80 WATSON 9 [262 

lished religion, though a philosopher may now and then 
have stepped beyond the paltry prescript of civil juris- 
prudence in his pursuit of virtue, yet the bulk oi 
mankind have ever been contented with that scanty 
pittance of morality which enabled them to escape 
the lash of civil punishment : I call it a scanty pit- 
lance, because a man may be intemperate, iniquitous, 
impious, a thousand ways a profligate and a villain, 
and yet elude the cognizance and avoid the punish- 
ment of civil laws. 

I am sensible you will be ready to say, "what is 
all this to the purpose ? Though the bulk of mankind 
may never be able to investigate the laws of natural re- 
ligion, nor disposed to reverence their sanctions when 
investigated by others, nor solicitous about any other 
standard of moral rectitude than civil legislation ; yet 
the inconveniences which may attend the extirpation 
of Christianity can be no proof of its truth." I have 
not produced them as a proof of its truth ; but they 
are a strong and conclusive proof, if not of its truth, 
at least of its utility ; and the consideration of its uti- 
lity may be a motive to yourselves for examining 
whether it may not chance to be true ; and it ought 
to be a reason with every good citizen, and with 
every man of sound judgment, to keep his opinions to 
himself, if from any particular circumstances in his 
studies or in his education he should have the mis- 
fortune to think that it is not true. If you can disco- 
ver to the rising generation a better religion than the 
Christian, one that will more effectually animate their 
hopes, and subdue their passions, make them bette 
men or better members of society, we importune you 
to publish it for their advantage ; but till you can do 


that, we beg of you not to give the refes^tp their pas- 
sions, by instilling into their unsuspicious minds your 
pernicious prejudices. Even now, men scruple not, 
by their lawless lust, to ruin the repose of private fa- 
milies, and to fix a stain of infamy upon the noblest ; 
even now, they hesitate not in lifting up a murderous 
arm against the life of their friend, or against their 
own, as often as the fever of intemperance stimulates 
their resentment, or the satiety of a useless life excites 
their despondency : even now, whilst we are persuad- 
ed of a resurrection from the dead, and of a. judgment 
to come, we find it difficult enough to resist the soli- 
citations of sense, and to escape unspotted from the 
licentious manners of the world : but what will be- 
come of our virtue, what of the consequent peace and 
Happiness of society, if you persuade us that there are 
no such things ? In two words, you may ruin your- 
telves by your attempt, and you will certainly ruin 
your country by your success. 

But the consideration of the inutility of your de- 
sign is not the only one which should induce you to 
abandon it ; the argument a tuto [from safety] ought 
to be warily managed, or it may tend to the silencing 
of our opposition to any system of superstition which 
has had the good fortune to be sanctified by public au- 
thority : it is, indeed, liable to no objection in the pre- 
sent case : we do not, however, wholly rely upon its 
cogency. It is not contended that Christianity is to 
be received merely because it is useful, but because it 
is true. Thii you deny, and think your objections 
well grounded: we conceive them originating in your 
vanity, your immorality, or your misapprehension. 
There are many worthless doctrines, many supersti- 

82 WATSON'S [264 

tious observances, which the fraud or folly of man 
kind have every where annexed to Christianity, (espe- 
cially in the church of Rome,) as essential parts of 
it : if you take these sorry appendages to Christianity 
for Christianity itself, as preached by Christ, and by 
the apostles ; if you confound the Roman with the 
Christian religion, you quite misapprehend its nature, 
and are in a state similar to that of men mentioned 
by Plutarch, in his Treatise of Superstition ; who, 
flying from superstition, leapt over religion, and sunk 
into downright atheism. Christianity is not a reli- 
gion very palatable to a voluptuous age ; it will not 
conform its precepts to the standard of fashion ; it will 
not lessen the deformity of vice by lenient appella- 
tions ; but calls keeping, whoredom , intrigue, adul- 
tery ; and duelling, murder: it will not pander to lust, 
it will not license the intemperance of mankind ; it is 
a troublesome monitor to a man of pleasure ; and your 
way of life may have made you quarrel with your re- 
ligion. As to your vanity, as a cause of your infide- 
lity, suffer me to produce the sentiments of M. Bayle 
upon that head: if the description does not suit your 
character, you will not be offended at it ; and if you 
are offended with its freedom, it will do you good. 
" This inclines me to believe that libertines, like 
Des-Barreaux, are not greatly persuaded of the truth 
of what they say. They have made no deep exami- 
nation; they have learned some few objections, which 
they are perpetually making a noise with; they speak 
from a principle of ostentation, and give themselves 
the lie in the time of danger. Vanity has a greater 
share in their disputes than conscience ; they imagine 
toat the singularity and boldness of the opinions 


which they maintain, will give them the reputation 
of men of parts : by degrees, they get a habit of hold* 
ing impious discourses ; and if their vanity be accom- 
panied by a voluptuous life, their progress in that road 
is the swifter.' 5 

The main stress of your objections rests not upon 
ihe insufficiency of the external evidence to the truth 
of Christianity ; for few of you, though you may be* 
come the future ornaments of the senate, or of the bar^ 
have ever employed an hour in its examination ; but 
upon the difficulty of the doctrines contained in the 
New Testament : they exceed, you say, your compre- 
hension j and you felicitate yourselves that you are 
not arrived at the true standard of orthodox faith < 
credo quia impossibile. [I believe it, because it is 
impossible.] You think it would be taking a super-* 
fluous trouble to inquire into the nature of the exter- 
nal proofs by which Christianity is established; since, 
in your opinion, the book itself carries with it its own 
refutation. A gentleman as acute, probably, as any 
of you, and who once believed, perhaps, as little as 
any of you, has drawn a quite different conclusion 
from the perusal of the New Testament: his treatise 
exhibits not only a distinguished triumph of reason 
over prejudice, of Christianity over deism, but it ex- 
hibits, what is infinitely more rare, the character of a 
man who has had courage and candor enough to ac- 
knowledge it.* 

But what if there should be some incomprehensible 
doctrines in the Christian religion ; some circumstances 
which in their causes, or their consequences, surpass 

*See the view of the Internal Evidence, by Soanie Jenyns* 


the reach of human reason ; are they to be rejected on 
that account ? You are, or would be thought, men of 
reading, and knowledge, and enlarged understandings ; 
weigh the matter fairly, and consider whether revealed 
religion be not, in this respect, just upon the same 
footing with every other object of your contemplation. 
Even in mathematics, the science of demonstration 
itself, though you get over its first principles, and learn 
to digest the idea of a point without parts, a line with- 
out breadth, and a surface without thickness, yet you 
will find yourself at a loss to comprehend the perpe- 
tual approximation of lines which can never meet ; the 
doctrine of incommensurables, and of an infinity of in- 
finites, each infinitely greater, or infinitely less, not 
only than any finite quantity, but than each other. In 
physics, you cannot comprehend the primary cause of 
any thing ; not of the light by which you see ; nor of 
the elasticity of the air, by which you hear; nor of the 
fire by which you are warmed. In physiology, you can- 
not tell what first gave motion to the heart, nor what 
continues it, nor why its motion is less voluntary than 
that of the lungs ; nor why you are able to move youf 
arm to the right or left, by a simple volition : you can- 
not explain the cause of animal heat, nor comprehend 
the principle by which your body was at first formed, 
nor by which it is sustained, nor by which it will be 
reduced to earth. In natural religion you cannot com- 
prehend the eternity or omnipresence of the Deity; 
nor easily understand how his prescience can be con- 
sistent with your freedom, or his immutability with 
his government of moral agents ; nor why he did not 
make all his creatures equally perfect; nor why he 
did not create them sooner ; in short, you cannot look 


into any branch of knowledge but you will meet with 
subjects above your comprehension. The fall and the 
redemption of human kind are not more incomprehen- 
sible than the creation and the conservation of the uni- 
verse ; the infinite Author of the works of providence, 
and of nature, is equally inscrutable ; equally past our 
finding out, in them both. And it is somewhat remark- 
able, that the deepest inquirers into nature have ever 
thought with most reverence, and spoken with most 
diffidence, concerning those things which, in revealed 
religion, may seem hard to be understood : they have 
ever avoided that self-sufficiency of knowledge which 
springs from ignorance, produces indifference, and 
ends in infidelity. Admirable to this purpose is the 
reflection of the greatest mathematician of the present 
age, when he is combating an opinion of Newton's by 
an hypothesis of his own, still less defensible than 
that which he opposes : " Tous les jours que je vois 
de ces esprits forts, qui critique les verites de notre 
religion, et s'en mocquent meme avec la plus imper- 
tinente suffisance, je pense, chetifs mortels ! combien 
et combien des choses sur lesquelles vous raissonez 
si legerement, sont elles plus sublimes, et plus eleves, 
que celles sur lesquelles le grand Newton s'egare si 
I grossierement ! [When I see these pretended free- 
thinkers cavilling at the truths of our religion, and 
scoffing at them with the most impertinent self-suffi- 
ciency, I think, poor mortals ! how many things on 
which you argue so flippantly are more sublime and 
I elevated than those on which the great Newton so 
j much erred !] Euler. 

Plato mentions a set of men who were very igno- 
I rant, and thought themselves supremely wise, and who 

86 WATSON'S [268 

rejected the arguments for the being of a God, derived 
from the harmony and order of the universe, as old 
and trite. There have been men it seems in all ages, 
who, in affecting singularity, have overlooked truth ; 
an argument, however, is not the worse for being old ; 
and surely it would have been a more just mode of 
reasoning if you had examined the external evidence 
for the truth of Christianity, weighed the old argu- 
ments from miracles, and from prophecies, before you 
had rejected the whole account from the difficulties 
you met with in it. You would laugh at an Indian, 
who, in peeping into a history of England, and meet- 
ing with the mention of the Thames being frozen, or 
of a shower of hail, or of snow, should throw the book 
aside as unworthy of his farther notice, from his want 
of ability to comprehend these phenomena. 

In considering the argument from miracles, you will 
soon be convinced that it is possible for God to work 
miracles ; and you will be convinced that it is as pos- 
sible for human testimony to establish the truth of mi- 
raculous, as of physical or historical events : but before 
you can be convinced that the miracles in question 
are supported by such testimony as deserves to be cre- 
dited, you must inquire at what period, and by what 
persons, the books of the Old and New Testament 
were composed. If you reject the account without 
making this examination, you reject it from prejudice, 
not from reason. 

There is, however, a short method of examining this 
argument, which may, perhaps, make as great an im- 
pression on your minds as any other. Three men, oi 
distinguished abilities, rose up at different times, and 
attacked Christianity with every objection which their 


malice could suggest or their learning could devise ; but 
neither Celsus in the second century, nor Porphyry in 
the third, nor the emperor Julian himself in the fourth 
century, ever questioned the reality of the miracles re- 
lated in the Gospels. Do but you grant us what these 
men (who were more likely to know the truth of the 
matter than you can be) granted to their adversaries, 
and we will very readily let you make the most of the 
magic, to which, as the last wretched shift, they were 
forced to attribute them. We can find you men, in our 
days, who, from the mixture of two colorless liquors, 
will produce you a third as red as blood, or of any 
other color you desire ; et dicto citius, [quicker than 
a word,] by a drop resembling water, will restore the 
transparency ; they will make two fluids coalesce into 
a solid body ; and from the mixture of liquors, colder 
than ice, will instantly raise you a horrid explosion 
and a tremendous flame. These, and twenty other 
tricks, they will perform, without having been sent with 
our Savior to Egypt to learn magic ; nay, with a bot- 
tle or two of oil they will compose the undulations of 
a lake ; and, by a little art, they will restore the func- 
tions of life to a man who has been an hour or two 
under water, or a day or two buried in the snow. But 
in vain will these men, or the greatest magician that 
Egypt ever saw, say to a boisterous sea, " Peace, be 
still ;" in vain will they say to a carcass rotting in the 
grave, " Come forth ;" the winds and the sea will not 
obey them, and the putrid carcass will not hear them. 
You need not suffer yourselves to be deprived of the 
weight of this argument from its having been observed 
that the fathers have acknowledged the supernatural 
part of Paganism, since the fathers were in no condi- 

88 WATSON'S ^270 

tion to detect a cheat which was supported both by 
die disposition of the people, and the power of the 
civil magistrate ; and they were, from that inability, 
forced to attribute to infernal agency what was too 
cunningly contrived to be detected, and contrived for too 
impious a purpose to be credited as the work of God. 
With respect to prophecy, you may, perhaps, have 
accustomed yourselves to consider it as originating in 
Asiatic enthusiasm, in Chaldean mystery, or the sub- 
tle stratagem of interested priests, and have given 
yourselves no more trouble concerning the predictions 
of sacred, than concerning the oracles of Pagan his- 
tory. Or, if you have ever cast a glance upon this sub- 
ject, the dissensions of learned men concerning the 
proper interpretation of the Revelation, and other dif- 
ficult prophecies, may have made you rashly conclude 
that all prophecies were equally unintelligible, and 
more indebted for their accomplishment to a fortunate 
concurrence of events, and the pLiin ingenuity of the 
expositor, than to the inspired foresight of the pro- 
phet. In all that the prophets of the Old Testament 
have delivered concerning the destruction of particu- 
lar cities, and the desolation of particular kingdoms, 
you ma*- see nothing but shrewd conjectures, which 
any one acquainted with the history of the rise and 
fall of empires, might certainly have made ; and as 
you would not hold him for a prophet who should now 
affirm that London or Paris would afford to future ages 
a spectacle just as melancholy as that which we now 
contemplate, with a sigh, in the ruins of Agrigentum 
or Palmyra, so you cannot persuade yourselves to be- 
lieve that the denunciations of the prophets against 
the haughty cities of Tyre or Babylon, for instance, 


proceeded from the inspiration of the Deity. There 
is no doubt, that by some such general kind of reason- 
ing, many are influenced to pay no attention to an ar- 
gument which, if properly considered, carries with it 
the strongest conviction. 

Spinoza said that he would have broken his atheis- 
tic system to pieces, and embraced, without repug- 
nance, the ordinary faith of Christians, if he could 
have persuaded himself of the resurrection of Laza- 
rus from the dead ; and I question not that there are 
many unbelievers who would relinquish their deistical 
tenets, and receive the Gospel, if they could persuade 
themselves that God had ever so far interfered in the 
moral government of the world as to illumine the mind 
of any one man with the knowledge of future events. 
A miracle strikes the senses of the persons who see 
it ; a prophecy addresses itself to the understandings 
of those who behold its completion ; and it requires, 
in many cases, some learning, in all some attention, 
to judge of the correspondence of events with the pre- 
dictions concerning them. No one can be convinced 
that what Jeremiah and the other prophets foretold of 
the fate of Babylon, that it should be besieged by the 
Medes ; that it should be taken when her mighty men 
were drunken, when her springs were dried up ; and 
that it should become a pool of water, and should re- 
main desolate for ever ; no one, I say, can be convinced 
that all these and other parts of the prophetic denun- 
ciation have been minutely fulfilled, without spend- 
ing some time in reading the accounts which profane 
historians have delivered down to us concerning its 
being taken by Cyrus; and which modern travelers 
have given us of its present situation. 

90 WATSON'S [27% 

Porphyry was so persuaded of the cc incidence be- 
tween the prophecies of Daniel and the events, that 
he was forced to affirm the prophecies were written 
after the things prophesied had happened. Another 
Porphyry has, in our days, been so astonished at the 
correspondence between the prophecy concerning the 
destruction of Jerusalem, as related by St. Matthew, 
and the history of that event, as recorded by Josephus, 
that, rather than embrace Christianity, he has ven- 
tured (contrary to the faith of all ecclesiastical his- 
tory, the opinion of the learned of all ages, and all the 
rules of good criticism) to assert that St. Matthew 
wrote his Gospel after Jerusalem had been taken and 
destroyed by the Romans. You may, from these in- 
stances, perceive the strength of the argument from 
prophecy ; it has not been able indeed to vanquish the 
prejudices of either the ancient or the modern Porphy- 
ry ; but it has been able to compel them both to be 
guilty of obvious falsehoods, which have nothing but 
impudent assertions to support them. Some over zea- 
lous interpreters of Scripture have found prophecies 
in simple narrations, extended real predictions beyond 
the times and circumstances to which they naturally 
were applied, and perplexed their readers with a thou- 
sand quaint allusions and allegorical conceits; this 
proceeding has made men of sense pay less regard to 
prophecy in general. There are some predictions, how- 
ever, such as those concerning the present state of the 
Jewish people, and the corruptions of Christianity, 
which are now fulfilling in the world ; and which, if 
you will take the trouble to examine them, you will 
find of such an extraordinary nature that you will not 
perhaps hesitate to refer them to God as their author ; 


and if you once become persuaded of the truth of any 
one miracle, or of the completion of any one prophecy, 
you will resolve all your difficulties (concerning the 
manner of God's interposition in the moral govern- 
ment of our species, and the nature of the doctrines 
:ontained in revelation) into your own inability fully 
to comprehend the whole scheme of divine providence. 

We are told, however, that the strangeness of the 
narration, and the difficulty of the doctrines contained 
in the New Testament, are not the only circumstances 
which induce you to reject it; you have discovered, 
you think, so many contradictions in the accounts 
which the evangelists have given of the life of Christ, 
that you are compelled to consider the whole as an 
ill-digested and improbable story. You would not rea 
son thus upon any other occasion ; you would not re- 
ject, as fabulous, the accounts given by Livy and Poll- 
rius of Hannibal and the Carthaginians, though you 
should discover a difference betwixt them in severa. 
points of little importance. You cannot compare the 
tiistory of the same events, as delivered by any two 
historians, but you will meet with many circumstances 
which, though mentioned by one, are either wholly 
omitted, or differently related by the other ; and this 
observation is peculiarly applicable to biographical 
writings : but no one ever thought of disbelieving the 
leading circumstances of the lives of Vitellius or Ves- 

sian, because Tacitus and Suetonius did not in every 
thing correspond in their accounts of these emperors. 
And if the memoirs of the life and doctrines of M. de 
(Voltaire himself were, some twenty or thirty years af- 
ter his death, to be delivered to the world by four of his 
most intimate acquaintance, I do not apprehend that 

92 WATSON'S [274 

we should discredit the whole account of such an ex- 
traordinary man, by reason of some slight inconsis- 
tencies and contradictions, which the avowed enemies 
of his name might chance to discover in the several 
narrations. Though we should grant you, then, that 
the evangelists had fallen into some trivial contradic- 
tions in what they have related concerning the life of 
Christ, yet you ought not to draw any other inference 
from our concession than that they had not plotted 
together, as cheats would have done, in order to give 
an unexceptionable consistency to their fraud. We are 
not, however, disposed to make you any such conces- . 
sion ; we will rather show you the futility of your ge- 
neral argument, by touching upon a few of the places 
which you think are most liable to your censure. 

You observe that neither Luke, nor Mark, nor John, 
have mentioned the cruelty of Herod in murdering: 
the infants of Bethlehem ; and that no account is to 
be found of this matter in Josephus, who wrote the 
life of Herod ; and therefore the fact recorded by 
Matthew is not true. The concurrent testimony of 
many independent writers concerning a matter of fact, 
unquestionably adds to its probability ; but if nothing 
is to be received as true, upon the testimony of a sin- 
gle author, we must give up some of the best writers, 
and disbelieve some of the most interesting facts of 
ancient history. 

According to Matthew, Mark, and Luke, there was 
only an interval of three months, you say, between 
the baptism and crucifixion of Jesus ; from which 
time, taking away the forty days of the temptation, 
there will only remain about six weeks for the whole 
period of his public ministry ; which lasted, however, 


according to St. John, at the least above three years. 
Your objection, fairly stated, stands thus : Matthew, 
Mark, and Luke, in writing the history of Jesus 
Christ, mention the several events of his life, as fol- 
lowing one another in continued succession, without 
taking notice of the times in which they happened. 
But is it a just conclusion, from their silence, to infer, 
that there were really no intervals of time between the 
transactions which they seem to have connected ? 
Many instances might be produced, from the most 
admired biographers of antiquity, in which events are 
related as immediately consequent to each other, 
which did happen at very distant periods : we have an 
obvious example of this manner of writing in St. 
Matthew, who connects the preaching of John the 
Baptist with the return of Joseph from Egypt, though 
we are certain that the latter event preceded the for- 
mer by a great many years. 

John has said nothing of the institution of the 
Lord's Supper ; the other evangelists have said no- 
thing of the washing of the disciples' feet. What 
then ? are you not ashamed to produce these facts as 
instances of contradiction? If omissions are con- 
tradictions, look into the history of the age of Louis 
XIV, or into the general history of M. de Voltaire, and 
you will meet with a great abundance of contradictions. 

John, in mentioning the discourses which Jesus 
had with his mother and his beloved disciple, at the 
time of his crucifixion, says that she, with Mary 
[Magdalene, stood near the cross. Matthew, on the 
other hand, says that Mary Magdalene and the other 
women were there, beholding afar off. This you 
think a manifest contradiction ; and scoffingly inquire 

94 WATSON'S [276 

whether the women and the beloved disciple, which 
were near the cross, could be the same with those 
who stood far from the cross ? It is difficult not to 
transgress the bounds of moderation and good man- 
ners, in answering such sophistry. What 1 have you 
to learn that, though the evangelists speak of the cru- 
cifixion as of one event, it was not accomplished in 
one instant, but lasted several hours ? And why the 
women, who were at a distance from the cross, might 
not, during its continuance, draw near the cross ; or, 
from being near the cross, might not move from the 
cross, is more than you can explain to either us or 
yourselves. And we take from you your only refuge, 
by denying expressly that the different evangelists, 
in their mention of the women, speak of the same 
point of time. 

The evangelists, you affirm, have fallen into gross 
contradictions in their accounts of the appearances 
by which Jesus manifested himself to his disciples, 
after his resurrection from the dead ; for Matthew j 
speaks of two, Mark of three, Luke of two, rnd John 
of four. That contradictory propositions cannot be 
true, is readily granted; and if you will produce the 
place in which Matthew says that Jesus Christ ap- 
peared twice, and no oftener, it will be further granted I 
that he is contradicted by John in a very material part 
of his narration ; but till you do that, you must excuse | 
me if I cannot grant that the evangelists have contr; 
dieted each other in this point ; for to common unde 
standings, it is pretty evident that if Christ appear 
four times according to John's account, he must hav 
appeared twice according to that of Matthew and 
Luke, and thrice according to that of Mark. 


The different evangelists are not only accused of 
contradicting each other, bat Luke is said to have 
contradicted himself; for in his Gospel he tells us, 
that Jesus ascended into heaven from Bethany ; and 
in the Acts of the Apostles, of which he is the reputed 
author, he informs us that he ascended from Mount 
Olivet. Your objection proceeds either from your 
ignorance of geography, or your ill-will to Chris- 
tianity ; and upon either supposition deserves our con- 
tempt : be pleased, however, to remember for the 
future, that Bethany was not only the name of a town, 
but of a district of Mount Olivet adjoining to the town. 

From this specimen of the contradictions ascribed 
to the historians of the life of Christ, you may judge 
for yourselves what little reason there is to reject 
Christianity upon their account ; and how sadly you 
will be imposed upon (in a matter of more conse- 
quence to you than any other) if you take every thing 
for a contradiction which the uncandid adversaries of 
Christianity think proper to call one. 

Before I put an end to this address, I cannot help 
taking notice of an argument by which some philo- 
sophers have of late endeavored to overturn the whole 
system of revelation ; and it is the more necessary 
to give an answer to their objection, as it is become a 
common subject of philosophical conversation, espe- 
cially among those who have visited the continent. 
The objection tends to invalidate, as is supposed, the 
authority of Moses, by showing that the earth is much 
[older than it can be proved to be from his account 
of the creation, and the Scripture chronology. We 
icontend, that six thousand years have not yet elapsed 
since the creation ; and 1 these philosophers contend, 

96 WATSON'S [278 

that tney have indubitahle proof of the earth's being 
at the least fourteen thousand years old ; and they 
complain that Moses hangs as a dead weight upon 
them, and blunts all their zeal for inquiry. 

The Canonico Recupero, who, it seems, is engaged 
in writing the history of Mount ^Itna, has discovered 
a stratum of lava which flowed from that mountain, 
according to his opinion, in the time of the second 
Punic war, or about two thousand years ago ; this 
stratum is not yet covered with soil sufficient for the 
production of eith'er corn or vines; it requires, then, 
says the Canon, two thousand years at least to con- 
vert a stratum of lava into a fertile field. In sinking 
a pit near Jaci, in the neighborhood of JEtna, they 
have discovered evident marks of seven distinct lavas, 
one under the other ; the surfaces of which are paral- 
lel, and most of them covered with a thick bed of 
rich earth. Now, the eruption which formed the 
lowest part of these lavas (if we may be allowed to 
reason, says the Canon, from analogy) flowed from 
the mountain at least fourteen thousand years ago. 
It might be briefly answered to this objection, by de- 
nying, that there is any thing in the history of Moses 
repugnant to this opinion concerning the great anti- 
quity of the earth ; for though the rise and progress of | 
arts and sciences, and the small multiplication of the 
human species, render it almost to a demonstratio 
probable that ma"n has not existed longer upon ih 
surface of this earth than according to the Mosaic ac- 1 
count, yet that the earth itself was then created out 
of nothing, when man was placed upon it, is not, ac- 
cording to the sentiments of some philosophers, to be 
proved from the original text of sacred Scripture: we 


might, I say, reply with these philosophers to this for- 
midable objection of the Canon, by granting it in its 
fullest extent; we are under no necessity, however, 
of adopting their opinion, in order to show the weak- 
ness of the Canon's reasoning. For, in the first place, 
the Canon has not satisfactorily established his main 
fact, that the lava in question is the identical lava 
which Diodorus Siculus mentions to have flowed 
from .ZEtna in the second Carthaginian war; and, in 
the second place, it mav be observed, that the time 
necessary for converting lava into fertile fields must 
be very different, according to the different consisten- 
cies of the lavas, and their different situations, with 
respect to elevation or depression ; to their being ex- 
posed to winds, rains, and to other circumstances; 
just as the time in which the heaps of iron slag 
I (which resembles lava) are covered with verdure, is 
I different at different furnaces, according to the nature 
of the slag, and situation of the furnace ; and some- 
thing of this kind is deducible from the account of the 
Canon himself; since the crevices of this famous stra- 
tum are really full of rich, good soil, and have pretty 
I large trees growing in them. 

But if all this should be thought not sufficient to 
| remove the objection, I will produce the Canon an 
I analogy in opposition to his analogy, and which is 
I founded on more certain facts. ^Etna and Vesuvius 
i resemble each other in the causes which produce 
jtheir eruptions, and in the nature of their lavas, and 
l|in the time necessary to mellow them into soil fit for 
'(vegetation ; or if there be any slight difference in this 
spect, it is probably not greater than what subsists 
etween different lavas of the same mountain. This 




being admitted, which no philosopher will deny, the 
Canon's analogy will prove just nothing at all, if we 
can produce an instance of seven different lavas (with 
interjacent strata of vegetable earth) which have 
flowed from Mount Vesuvius within the space, not of 
fourteen thousand, but of somewhat less than seven- 
teen hundred years ; for then, according to our analo- 
gy, a stratum of lava may be covered with vegetable 
soil in about two hundred and fifty years, instead of 
requiring two thousand for the purpose. The erup- 
tion of Vesuvius which destroyed Herculaneum and 
Pompeii, is rendered still more famous by the death, 
of Pliny, recorded by his nephew in his letter to Ta- 
citus. This event happened in the year 79. It is not 
then quite seventeen hundred years since Herculane- 
um was swallowed up ; but we are informed by un- 
questionable authority, that " the matter which covers 
the ancient town of Herculaneum is not the produce 
of one eruption only ; for there are evident marks that 
the matter of six eruptions has taken its course over 
that which lies immediately above the town, and was 
the cause of its destruction. These strata are either 
of lava or burnt matter, with veins of good soil be- 
twixt them"* I will not add another word upon this 
subject, except that the bishop of the diocese was not 
much out in his advice to Canonica Recupero, to take 
care not to make his mountain older than Moses ; 
though it would have been full as well to have shut 
his mouth with a reason, as to have stopped it with 
the dread of an ecclesiastical censure. 

* See Sir William Hamilton's Remarks upon the Nature ot 
the Soil of Naples and its Neighborhood, in the Pbilos. Trans, 
vol. 61, p. 7. 

281] AEl'LY TO GIBBON. 99 

You perceive with what ease a little attention will 
remove a great difficulty ; but had we been able to say 
nothing in explanation of this phenomenon, we should 
not have acted a very rational part in making our ig- 
aorance the foundation of our infidelity, or suffering a 
minute philosopher to rob us of our religion. 

Your objections to revelation may be numerous; 
you may find fault with the account which Moses has 
given of the creation and the fall ; you may not be 
able to get water enough for a universal deluge ; nor 
room enough in the ark of Noah for all the different 
kinds of aerial and terrestrial animals ; you may be 
dissatisfied with the command for sacrificing Isaac, 
for plundering the Egyptians, and for extirpating the 
Canaanites ; you may find fault with the Jewish eco- 
nomy, for its ceremonies, its sacrifices, and its multi- 
plicity of priests; you may object to the imprecations 
in the Psalms, and think the immoralities of David a 
fit subject for dramatic ridicule ; you may look upon 
the partial promulgation of Christianity as an insuper- 
able objection to its truth, and waywardly reject the 
goodness of God toward yourselves, because you do 
not comprehend how you have deserved it more than 
others ; you may know nothing of the entrance of sin 
and death into the world by one man's transgression ; 
nor be able to comprehend the doctrine of the cross, 
and of redemption by Jesus Christ : in short, if your 
mind is so disposed, you may find food for your scep- 
ticism in every page of the Bible, as well as in every 
appearance of nature ; and it is not in the power of 
any person, but yourselves, to clear up your doubts. 
You must read, and you must think for yourselves ; 
and you must do both with temper, with candor, and 

tOO WATSON'S [282 

with care. Infidelity is a rank weed ; it is nurtured 
by our vices, and cannot be plucked up as easily as it 
may be planted. Your difficulties with respect to re- 
velation may have first arisen from your own reflec- 
tion on the religious indifference of those whom, from 
your earliest infancy, you have been accustomed to 
revere and imitate : domestic irreligion may have 
made you a willing hearer of libertine conversation ; 
and the uniform prejudices of the world may have 
finished the business, at a very early age, and left you 
to wander through life, without a principle to direct 
your conduct, and to die without hope. We are far 
from wishing you to trust the word of the clergy for 
the truth of your religion ; we beg of you to examine 
it to the bottom, to try it, to prove it, and not to nold 
it fast unless you find it good. Till you are disposed 
to undertake this task, it becomes you to consider, with 
great seriousness and attention, whether it can be for 
your interest to esteem a few witty sarcasms, or meta- 
physic subtleties, or ignorant misrepresentations, or 
unwarranted assertions, as unanswerable argument 
against revelation; and a very slight reflection wil 
convince you that it will certainly be for your reputa 
tion to employ the flippancy of your rhetoric, and the 
poignancy of your ridicule, upon any subject rathe 
than upon the subject of religion. 

I take my leave with recommending to your notice 
the advice which Mr. Locke gave to a young man 
who was desirous of becoming acquainted with the 
doctrines of the Christian religion: " Study the hob 
Scripture, especially the New Testament : therein are 
contained the words of eternal life. It has God for 
its author, salvation for its end, and truth without any 
mixture of error for its matter." I am, &c. 




The " Age of Reason, 1 ' Part the Second. 

BY R. WATSON, D. D. F. R. S. 

Bishop of Landnff, and p rofeesor of Divinity in the University of 


SIR : I have lately met with a book of yours enti- 
tled " THE AGE OF REASON, part the second, being an 
investigation of true and of fabulous theology ;" and I 
think it not inconsistent with my station, and the duty 
I owe to society, to trouble you and the world witli 
some observations on so extraordinary a performance. 
Extraordinary I esteem it, not from any novelty in the 
objections which you have produced against revealed 
religion, (for I find little or no novelty in them,) but 
from the zeal with which you labor to disseminate 
your opinions, and from the confidence with which 
you esteem them true. You perceive by this that I 
give you credit for your sincerity, how much-soever I 
may question your wisdom, in writing in such a man- 
ner, on such a subject; and I have no reluctance in 
acknowledging that you possess a considerable share 
of energy of language, and acuteness of investigation ; 
though I must be allowed to lament that these talents 
have not been applied in a manner more useful to hu- 
ian kind, and more creditable to yourself. 
I begin with your preface. You therein state that 
ou had long had an intention of publishing your 
Loughts upon religion, but that you had originally re- 
ed it to a later period in life I hope there is no 

4 \VATSON 1 9 [2S6 

want of charity in saying, that it would have been 
fortunate for the Christian world had your life been 
terminated before you had fulfilled your intention. In 
accomplishing your purpose, you will have unsettled 
the faith of thousands ; rooted from the minds of the 
unhappy virtuous all their comfortable assurances of a 
future recompense ; have annihilated in the minds of 
the flagitious all their fears of future punishment ; you 
will have given the reins to the domination of every 
passion, and have thereby contributed to the introduc- 
tion of the public insecurity, and of the private unhap- 
piness, usually and almost necessarily accompanying 
a state of corrupt morals. 

No one can think worse of confession to a priest 
and subsequent absolution, as practiced in the church 
of Rome, than I do ; but I cannot, with you, attribute 
the guillotine massacres to that cause. Men's minds 
were not prepared, as you suppose, for the commission 
of all manner of crimes, by any doctrines of the church 
of Rome, corrupted as I esteem it, but by their no 
thoroughly believing even that religion. What may 
not society expect from those who shall imbibe the 
principles of your hook? 

A fever, which you and those about you expecte 
would prove mortal, made you remember, with re 
newed satisfaction, that you had written the forme 
part of your Age of Reason and you know, therefor 
you say, by experience, the conscientious trial of you 
own principles. I admit this declaration to be a pro 
of the sincerity of your persuasion, but I cannot admit 
it to be any proof of the truth of your principles. Wha 
is conscience? Is it, as has been thought, an interna 
monitor implanted in us by the Supreme Being, and 


dictating to us, on all occasions, what is right or 
wrong? Or is it merely our own judgment of the mo- 
ral rectitude or turpitude of our own actions ? I take 
the word (with Mr. Locke) in the latter, as the only 
intelligible sense. Now, who sees not that our judg- 
ments of virtue and vice, right and wrong, are not al- 
ways formed from an enlightened and dispassionate 
use of our reason, in the investigation of truth? They 
are more generally formed from the nature of the reli- 
gion we profess ; from the quality of the civil govern- 
ment under which we live ; from the general manners 
of the age, or the particular manners of the persons 
with whom we associate ; from the education we have 
had in our youth ; from the books we have read at a 
more advanced period ; and from other accidental 
causes. Who sees not that, on this account, conscience 
may be conformable or repugnant to the law of nature ? 
may be certain, or doubtful and that it can be no cri- 
terion of moral rectitude, even when it is certain, be- 
cause the certainty c^ an opinion is no proof of its be- 
ing a right opinion? A man may be certainly per- 
suaded of an error in reasoning, or an untruth in mat- 
ters of fact. It is a maxim of every law, human and 
divine, that a man ought never to act in opposition to 
his conscience, but it will not from thence follow that 
he will, in obeying the dictates of his conscience on 
all occasions, act right. An inquisitor, who burns Jews 
and heretics ; a Robespierre, who massacres innocent 
and harmless women ; a robber, who thinks that all 
tnings ought to be in common, and that a state of pro- 
perty is an unjust infringement of natural liberty 
these, and a thousand perpetrators of different crimes, 
may all follow the dictates of conscience ; and may, at 

6 WATSON'S - [288 

the real or supposed approach of death, remember, 
"with renewed satisfaction," the worst of their trans- 
actions, and experience, without dismay " a conscien- 
tious trial of their principles." But this, their conscien- 
tious composure, can be no proof to others of the rec- 
titude of their principles, and ought to be no pledge to 
themselves of their innocence in adhering to them. 

I have thought fit to make this remark, with a view 
of suggesting to you a consideration of great impor- 
tance whether you have examined calmly, and ac- 
cording to the best of your ability, the arguments by 
which the truth of revealed religion may, in the judg- 
ment of learned and impartial men, be established? 
You will allow that thousands of learned and impar- 
tial men, (I speak not of priests, who, however, are, I 
trust, as learned and impartial as yourself, but of lay- 
men of the most splendid talents) you will allow, 
that thousands of these, in all ages, have embraced 
revealed religion as true. Whether these men have all 
been in an error, enveloped in the darkness of igno- 
rance, shackled by the chains of superstition, whils 
you and a few others have enjoyed light and liberty, i 
a question I submit to the decision of your readers. 

If you have made the best examination you can, an 
yet reject revealed religion as an imposture, I pray 
that God may pardon what I esteem your error. AD 
whether you have made this examination or not, doe 
not become me or any man to determine. That Gc 
pel which you despise, has taught me this moder 
tion ; it has said to me " Who art thou that judge 
another man's servant? To his own master he stand 
eth or falleth." I think that you are in an error ; 1 
whether that error be to you a vincible or an invincibli 

239] "REPLY TO PAINE. 7 

error, I presume not to determine. I know indeed where 
it is said, " that the preaching of the cross is to them 
that perish foolishness, and that if the Gospel be hid, 
it is hid to them that are lost." The consequence of 
your unbelief must be left to the just and merciful 
judgment of Him who alone knoweth the mechanism 
and the liberty of our understandings ; the origin of 
our opinions ; the strength of our prejudices ; the ex- 
cellencies and the defects of our reasoning faculties. 
1 shall, designedly, write this and the following let- 
I ters in a popular manner ; hoping that thereby they 
may stand a chance of being perused by that class of 
readers for whom your work seems to be particularly 
[calculated, and who are the most likely to be injured 
Ifoy it. The really learned are in no danger of being in- 
Ifected by the poison of infidelity ; they will excuse me, 
I therefore, for having entered as little as possible into 
1 deep disquisitions concerning the authenticity of the 
jBible. The subject has been so learnedly and so fre- 
I quently handled by other writers, that it does not want 
R(I had almost said, it does not admit) any further proof. 
||And it is the more necessary to adopt this mode of an- 
swering your book, because you disclaim all learned 
appeals to other books, and undertake to prove, from 
Bible itself, that it is unworthy of credit. I hope 
i show, from the Bible itself, the direct contrary. But 
case any of your readers should think that you had 
Qot put forth all your strength, by not referring for 
roof of your opinion to ancient authors; lest they 
|should expect that all ancient authors are in your fa- 
or, I will venture to affirm, that had you made a learned 
ppeal to all the ancient books in the world, sacred or 
fane, Christian, Jewish, or Pagan, instead of les- 

8 WATsoK'a- [290 

sening, they would have established the credit and au- 
thority of the Bible as the word of God. 

Quitting your preface, let us proceed to the work 
itself, in which there is mucn repetition, and a defect 
of proper arrangement. I will follow your track, how- 
ever, as nearly as I can. The first question you pro- 
pose for consideration is " Whether there is suffi- 
cient authority for believing the Bible to be the Word 
of God, or whether there is not '?" 'i You determine this 
question in the negative, upon what you are pleased to 
call moral evidence. You hold it impossible that the 
Bible can be the Word of God, because it is therein 
said, that the Israelites destroyed the Canaanites by 
the express command of God ; and to believe the Bible 
to be true, we must, you affirm, unbelieve all our be- 
lief of the moral justice of God ; for wherein, you ask y 
could crying or smiling infants offend ? I am astonished 
that so acute a reasoner should attempt to disparage 
the Bible, by bringing forward this exploded and fre- 
quently refuted objection of Morgan, Tindal, and Bo- 
lingbroke. You profess yourself to be a deist, and to 
believe that there is a God, who created the universe, 
and established the laws of nature, by which it is sus- 
tained in existence. You profess that, from the con 
templation of the works of God, you derive a knowledge 
of his attributes; and you reject the Bible, because it 
ascribes to God things inconsistent (as you suppose) 
with the attributes which you have discovered to be- 
long to him; in particular, you think it repugnant to 
his moral justice, that he should doom to destructiou 
the crying or smiling infants of the Canaanites. Why 
do you not maintain it to be repugnant to his moral 
justice that he should sufler crying or smiling infant* 


to be swallowed up by an earthquake^ drowned by an 
inundation, consumed by fire, starved by a famine, or 
destroyed by pestilence? The word of God is in per- 
fect harmony with his work ; crying or smiling infants 
are subjected to death in both. We believe that the 
earth, at the express command of God, opened her 
mouth, and swallowed up Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, 
with their wives, their sons, and their little ones. This 
you esteem so repugnant to God's moral justice, that 
you spurn, as spurious, the book in which the circum- 
stance is related. When Catania, Lima, and Lisbon, 
were severally destroyed by earthquakes, men, with 
their wives, their sons, and their little ones, were swal- 
lowed up alive why do you not spurn as spurious the 
book of nature, in which this fact is certainly written, 
and from the perusal of which you infer the moral jus- 
tice of God? You will, probably, reply that the evils 
which the Canaanites suffered from the express com- 
mand of God, were different from those which were 
brought on mankind by the operation of the laws of 
nature. Different! in what? Not in the magnitude 
of the evil not in the subjects of sufferance not in 
the author of it for my philosophy, at least, instructs 
me to believe that God not only primarily formed, but 
that he has, through all ages, executed the laws of na- 
ture ; and that he will, through all eternity, administer 
them for the general happiness of his creatures, whe- 
ther we can, on every occasion, discern that end or not. 
I am far from being guilty of the impiety of ques- 
tioning the existence of the moral justice of God, as 
proved either by natural or revealed religion ; what I 
contend for is briefly this that you have no right, in 
fairness of reasoning, to urge any apparent deviation 

10 WATSON'S [292 

from moral justice as an argument against revealed 
religion, because you do not urge an equally apparent 
deviation from it, as an argument against natural re- 
ligion : you reject the former, and admit the latter 
without adverting that, as to your objection, they mus' 
stand or fall together. 

As to the Canaanites, it is needless to enter into any 
proof of the depraved state of their morals ; they were 
a wicked people in the time of Abraham, and they, 
even then, were devoted to destruction by God; but 
their iniquity was not then full. In the time of Moses 
they were idolaters, sacrificers of their own crying or 
smiling infants ; devourers of human flesh ; addicted 
to unnatural lusts ; immersed in the filthiness of all 
manner of vice. Now, I think it will be impossible to 
prove that it was a proceeding contrary to God's mo- 
ral justice, to exterminate so wicked a people. He 
made the Israelites the executors of his vengeance ; 
and, in doing this, he gave such an evident and terri- 
ble proof of his abomination to vice, as could not fail 
to strike the surrounding nations with astonishment 
and terror, and to impress on the minds of the Israelites 
what they were to expect if they followed the exam- 
ple of the nations whom he commanded them to cut 
off. " Ye shall not commit any of these abominations 
that the land spue not you out also, as it spued out the 
nations before you." How strong and descriptive this 
language ! the vices of the inhabitants were so abomi- 
nable, that the very land was sick of them, and forced 
to vomit them forth, as the stomach disgorges a dead- 
ly poison. 

I have often wondered what could be the reason that 
men, not destitute of talents, should be desirous of un- 

293] REPLY TO PAINE. 11 

dermining the authority of revealed religion, and stu- 
dious in exposing, with a malignant and illiberal exul- 
tation, every little difficulty attending the Scriptures, 
to popular animadversion and contempt. I am not will- 
ing to attribute this strange propensity to what Plato 
attributed the atheism of his time to profligacy of 
manners to affectation of singularity to gross igno- 
rance, assuming the semblance of deep research and 
superior sagacity. I had rather refer it to an impro- 
priety of judgment respecting the manners and men- 
tal acquirements of human kind in the first ages of the 
world. Most unbelievers argue as if they thought that 
man, in remote and rude antiquity, in the very birth 
and infancy of our species, had the same distinct con- 
ceptions of one, eternal, invisible, incorporeal, infinite- 
ly wise, powerful, and good God, which they them- 
selves have now. This I look upon as a great mistake, 
and a pregnant source of infidelity. Human kind, by 
long experience ; by the institutions of civil society ; 
by the cultivation of arts and science ; by, as I believe, 
divine instruction actually given to some, and tradi- 
tionally communicated to all, is in a far more distin- 
guished situation, as to the powers of the mind, than 
it was in the childhood of the world. The history of 
man is the history of the providence of God ; who, 
willing the supreme felicity of all his creatures, has 
adapted his government to the capacity of those who, 
in different ages, were the subjects of it. The history 
of any one nation, throughout all ages, and that of all 
nations in the same age, are but separate parts of one 
great plan which God is carrying on for the moral me- 
lioration of mankind. But who can comprehend the 
whole of this immense design? The shortness of life v 

12 WATSON'S [294 

the weakness of our faculties, the inadequacy of our 
means of information, conspire to make it impossible 
for us, worms of the earth, insects of an hour, com- 
pletely to understand any one of its parts. No man, 
who well weighs the subject, ought to be surprised, 
that in the histories of ancient times many things 
should occur foreign to our manners, the propriety and 
necessity of which we cannot clearly apprehend. 

It appears incredible to many, that God Almighty 
should have had colloquial intercouse with our first 
parents ; that he should have contracted a kind of 
friendship for the patriarchs, and entered into cove- 
nants with them ; that he should have suspended the 
laws of nature in Egypt ; should have been so appa- 
rently partial as to become the God and governor of 
one particular nation ; and should have so far de- 
meaned himself, as to give to that people a burden- 
some ritual of worship, statutes and ordinances, many 
of which seem to be beneath the dignity of his atten- 
tion, unimportant and impolitic. I have conversed 
with many deists, and have always found that the 
strangeness of these things was the only reason for 
their disbelief of them: nothing similar has happened 
in their time; they will not, therefore, admit that 
these events have really taken place at any time. As 
well might a child, when arrived at a state of man- 
hood, contend that he never either stood in need of ? 
or experienced the fostering care of a mother's kind- 
ness, the wearisome attention of his nurse, or the in- 
struction and discipline of his schoolmaster. The 
Supreme Being selected one family from an idola- 
trous world ; nursed it up, by various acts of his pro- 
vidence, into a great nation ; communicated to that 

295] REPLY TO PAINE. 13 

nation a knowledge of his holiness, justice, mercy, 
power, and wisdom ; disseminated them at various 
times, through every part of the earth, that they might 
be a " leaven to leaven the whole lump ;" that they 
might assure all other nations of the existence of one 
supreme God, the creator and preserver of the world, 
the only proper object of adoration. With what rea- 
son can we expect, that what was done to one nation, 
not out of any partiality to them, but for the general 
good, should be done to ail? That the mode of in- 
struction, which was suited to the infancy of the 
world, should be extended to the maturity of its man- 
hood, or to the imbecility of its old age ? I own to you, 
that when I consider how nearly man, in a savage 
state, approaches to the brute creation, as to intellec- 
tual excellence, and when I contemplate his misera- 
ble attainments, as to the knowledge of God, in a ci- 
vilized state, when he has had no divine instruction 
on the subject, or when that instruction has been for- 
gotten, (for all men have known something of God 
from tradition,) I cannot but admire the wisdom and 
goodness of the Supreme Being, in having let him- 
self down to our apprehensions : in having given to 
mankind, in the earliest ages, sensible and extraordi- 
nary proofs of ais existence and attributes ; in having 
made the Jewish and Christian dispensations medi- 
ums to convey to all men, through all ages, that know- 
ledge concerning himself which he has vouchsafed 
to give immediately to the first. I own it is strange, 
very strange, that he should have made an immediate 
manifestation of himself in the first ages of the world ; 
but what is there that is not strange ? It is strange 
that you and I are here that there is water, and 

14 WATSON'S [296 

earth, and air, and fire that there is a sun, and moon, 
and stars that there is generation, corruption, repro- 
duction. I can account ultimately for none of these 
things, without recurring to Him who made every 
thing. I also am his workmanship, and look up to 
him with hope of preservation through all eternity ; I 
adore him for his word as well as for his work: his 
work I cannot comprehend, but his word has assured 
me of all that I am concerned to know that he has 
prepared everlasting happiness for those who love and 
obey him. This you will call preachment I will have 
done with it ; but the subject is so vast, and the plan 
of providence, in my opinion, so obviously wise and 
good, that I can never think of it without having my 
mind filled with reverence, admiration and gratitude. 
In addition to the moral evidence (as you are pleas- 
ed to think it) against the Bible, you threaten, in the 
progress of your work, to produce such other evidence 
as even a priest cannot deny. A philosopher in search 
of truth, forfeits with me all claim to candor and im- 
partiality, when he introduces railing for reasoning, 
vulgar and illiberal sarcasm in the room of argument. 
I will not imitate the example you set me : but ex- 
amine what you shall produce with as much coolness 
and respect as if you had given the priests no provo- 
cation ; as if you were a man of the most unblemished 
character, subject to no prejudices, actuated by no bad 
designs, nor liable to have abuse retorted upon you 
with success. 


Before you commence your grand attack upon the 

297] REPLY TO PAINE, 15 

Bible, you wish to establish a difference between the 
evidence necessary to prove the authenticity of the 
Bible, and that of any other ancient book. I am not 
surprised at your anxiety on this head ; for all writers 
on the subject have agreed in thinking that St. Aus- 
tin reasoned well, when, in vindicating the genuine- 
ness of the Bible, he asked " What proofs have we 
that the works of Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Varro, and 
Other profane authors, were written by those whose 
name they bear; unless it be that this has been an 
opinion generally received at all times, and by all 
those who have lived since the authors ?" This wri- 
ter was convinced that the evidence which establish- 
ed the genuineness of any profane book, would esta- 
blish that of the sacred book ; and I profess myself to 
be of the same opinion, notwithstanding what you 
have advanced to the contrary. 

In this part your ideas seem to me to be confused ; 
I do not say that you designedly jumble together 
mathematical science and historical evidence ; the 
knowledge acquired by demonstration, and the proba- 
bility derived from testimony. You know but one 
ancient book that authoritatively challenges universal 
consent and belief, and that is Euclid's Elements. If 
I were disposed to make frivolous objections, I should 
say that even Euclid's Elements had not met with 
universal consent ; that there had been men, both in 
ancient and modern times, who had questioned the 
intuitive evidence of some of his axioms, and denied 
the justness of some of his demonstrations ; but, ad- 
mitting the truth, I do not see the pertinency of your 
observation. You are attempting to subvert the au- 
thenticity of the Bible, and you tell us that Euclid's 

16 WATSON'S [298 

Elements are certainly true. What then? Does it 
follow that the Bible is certainly false ? The most 
illiterate scrivener does not want to be informed that 
the examples in his Arithmetic are proved by a differ- 
ent kind of reasoning from that by which he per* 
suades himself to believe, that there was such a person j 
as Henry VI [I, or that there is such a city as Paris. 

It may be of use, to remove this confusion in your 
argument to state distinctly the difference between 
the genuineness and the authenticity of a book. A 
genuine book is that which was written by the pe| 
son whose name it bears, as the author of it. 
authentic book is that which relates matters of fa> 
as they really happened. A book may be genui 
without being authentic ; and a book may be auth 
tic, without being genuine. The books written 
Richardson and Fielding are genuine books, thoi 
the histories of Clarissa and Tom Jones are fabies 
The history of the Island of Formosa is a genuine 
book ; it was written by Psalmanazar ; but it is not 
authentic book; (though it was long esteemed 
such, and translated into different languages ;) for 
author, in the latter part of his life, took shame 
himself for having imposed on the world, and d 
fessed that it was a mere romance. Anson's Voyi 
may be considered as an authentic book ; it probably c< 
tains a true narration of the principal events reco 
in it ; but it is not a genuine book, having not been w 
ten by Walters, to whom it is ascribed, but by Robins. 

This distinction between the genuineness and au- 
thenticity of a book, will assist us in detecting the fal 
lacy of an argument, which you state with great 
confidence in the part of your work now under con- 

1200} R2PLY TO PAINE. J7 

|sideration y and which you frequently allude to, in 
; other parts, as conclusive evidence against the truth 
of the Bible. Your arguments stand thus If it be 
|found that the books ascribed to Moses, Joshua, and 
USamuel, were not written by Moses, Joshua, and Sa- 
muel, every part of the authority and authenticity 
|of these books is gone at once. I presume to think 
Hotherwise. The genuineness of those books (in the 
[judgment of those who say that they were written 
|by these authors) will certainly be gone ; but their 
(authenticity may remain : they may still contain a true 
Ipccount of real transactions, though the names of the 
Ikvriters of them should be found to be different from 
nrhat they are generally esteemed to be. 

Had, indeed, Moses said that he wrote the first five 

Spooks of the Bible ; and had Joshua and Samuel said 

||that they wrote the books which are respectively at- 

fkributed to them; and had it been found that Moses, 

; Joshua, and Samuel, did not write these books ; then, 

I grant, the authority of the whole would have been 

i gone at once ; these men would have been found liars, 

[as to the genuineness of these books ; and this proof 

3f their want of veracity, intone point, would have 

invalidated their testimony in every other ; these books 

would have been justly stigmatized, as neither ge- 

raume nor authentic. 

I A history may be true, though it should not only be 

r ascribed to a wrong author, but though the author of it 

should not be known ; anonymous testimony does not 

iestroy the reality of facts, whether natural or miracu- 

ous. Had lord Clarendon published his History of 

1 the Rebellion, without prefixing his name to it ; or 

fiad the History of Titus Livius come down to us 

13 VATSOK'* [300 

under the name of Valerius Flaccus, or Valerius 
Maximus ; the facts mentioned in these histories 
would have been equally certain. 

As to your assertion, that the miracles recorded in 
Tacitus, and in other profane historians, are quite as 
well authenticated as those of the Bible it, being a 
mere assertion, destitute of proof, may be properly 
answered by a contrary assertion. I take the liberty 
then to say, that the evidence for the miracles recorded 
in the Bible is, both in kind and in degree, so greatly 
superior to that for the prodigies mentioned by Livy, 
or the miracles related by Tacitus, as to justify us in 
giving credit to the one as the work of God, and in 
withholding it from the other as the effect of supersti- 
tion and imposture. This method of derogating from 
the credibility of Christianity, by opposing to the 
miracles of our Savior the tricks of ancient impos- 
tors, seems to have originated with Hierocles in the 
fourth century ; and it has been adopted by unbe- 
lievers from that time to this ; with this difference, 
indeed, tnat the heathens of the third and fourth cen- 
tury admitted that Jesus wrought miracles ; but lest 
that admission should have compelled them to aban- 
don their gods and become Christians, they said that 
their Apolonius, their Apulcius, their Aristeas, did 
us great : whilst modern deists deny the fact of Jesus 
having ever wrought a miracle. And they have 
some reason for this proceeding ; they are sensible 
that the Gospel miracles are so different, in all their 
circumstances, from those related in pagan story, that 
if they admit them to have been performed, they must 
admit Christianity to be true ; hence they have fabri- 
cated a kind of deistical axiom that no human testi* 

301] REPLY TO PAINE. 19 

mony can establish the credibility of a miracle. 
This, though it has been a hundred times refuted, is 
still insisted upon, as if its truth had never been ques- 
tioned, and could not be disproved. 

You "proceed to examine th6 authenticity of the* 
Bible ; and you begin, you say, with what are called 
the five books of Moses, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, 
Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Your intention, you 
profess, is to show that these books are spurious, and 
that Moses is not the author of them ; and still far- 
ther, that they were not written in the time of Moses, 
nor till several hundred years afterwards; that they 
are no other than an attempte,d history of the life of 
Moses, and of the times in which he is said to have 
lived, and also of times prior thereto, written by some 
very ignorant and stupid pretender to authorship, se- 
veral hundred years after the death of Moses." In 
this passage the utmost force of your attack on the 
authority of the five books of Moses is clearly stated* 
You are not the first who has started this difficulty ; 
it is a difficulty, indeed, of modern date ; having not 
been heard of, either in synagogue or out of it, till 
the twelfth century. About that time Aben Ezra, a 
Jew of great erudition, noticed some passages (the 
same that you have brought forward) in the first five 
books of the Bible, which he thought had not been 
written by Moses, but inserted by some person after 
the death of Moses. But he was far from maintain- 
ing, as you do, that these books were written by some 
ignorant and stupid pretender to authorship, many 
hundred years after the death of Moses. Hobbes con- 
tends that the Books of Moses are so called, not from 
their having been written by Moses, but from their 


containing an account of Moses. Spinoza supported 
the same opinion ; and Le Clerc, a very able theolo- 
gical critic of the last and present century, once en- 
tertained the same notion. You see that this fancy 
has had some patrons before you ; the merit or the de- 
merit, the sagacity or the temerity of having asserted 
that Moses is not the author of the Pentateuch, is not 
entirely yours. Le Clerc, indeed, you must not boast 
of. When his judgment was matured by age, he was 
ashamed of what he had written on the subject in his 
younger years ; he made a public recantation of his 
error, by annexing to his commentary on Genesis a 
Latin dissertation, concerning Moses, the author of 
the Pentateuch, and his design in composing it. If 
in your future life you should chance to change your 
opinion on the subject, it will be an honor to your 
character to emulate the integrity and to imitate the 
example of Le Clerc. The Bible is not the only 
book which has undergone the fate of being reprobat- 
ed as spurious, after it had been received as genuine 
and authentic for many ages. It has been maintained 
that the history of Herodotus was written in the time 
of Constanttne; and that the Classics are forgeries of 
the thirteenth or fourteenth century. These extrava- 
gant reveries amused the world at the time of their 
publication, and have long since sunk into oblivion. 
You esteem all prophets to be such lying rascals, that 
1 dare not predict the fate of your book. 

Before you produce your main objections to the 
genuineness of the books of Moses, you assert 
" That there is no affirmative evidence that Moses is 
the author of them." What! no affirmative evidence? 
In the eleventh century Maimonides drew up a con- 

303] REPLY TO PAINE. 21 

fession of faith for the Jews, which all of them at this 
day admit ; it consists only of thirteen articles, and two 
of them have respect to Moses; one affirming the 
authenticity, the other the genuineness of his books. 
The doctrine arid prophecy of Moses is true. The law 
that we have was given by Moses. This is the faith 
of the Jews at present, and has been their faith ever 
since the destruction of their city and temple ; it was 
their faith at the time when the authors of the New 
Testament wrote ; it was their faith during their cap- 
tivity in Babylon ; in the time of their kings and 
judges ; and no period can be shown, from the age of 
Moses to the present hour, in which it was not their 
faith. Is this no affirmative evidence ? I cannot de- 
sire a stronger. Joseplius, in his book against Appi- 
on, writes thus " We have only two and twenty 
books which are to be believed as of divine authority, 
and which comprehend the history of all ages ; five 
belong to Moses, which contain the original of man 
and the tradition of the succession of generations, 
down to his death, which takes in a compass of about 
three thousand years." Do you consider this as no 
affirmative evidence ? Why should I mention Juvenal 
speaking of the volume which Moses had written? 
Why enumerate a long list of profane authors, all 
bearing testimony to the fact of Moses being the lead- 
er and the law-giver of the Jewish nation ? And if a 
law-giver, surely a writer of the laws. But what says 
the Bible ? In Exodus it says " Moses wrote all the 
words of the Lord, and took the book of the covenant, 
and read in the audience of the people." In Deuter- 
onomy it says " And it came to pass, when Moses 
had made an end of writing the words of this law in 

22 WATSON'S [304 

a book, until they were finished, (this surely imports 
the finishing of a laborious work,) that Moses com- 
manded the Levites, which bear the ark of the cove- 
nant of the Lord, saying, Take this book of the lav 
and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the 
Lord your God, that it may be there for a witness 
against thee." This is said in Deuteronomy, which 
is a kind of repetition or abridgment of the four pre- 
ceding books; and it is well known that the Jews 
gave the name of the law to the first five books cf the 
Old Testament. What possible doubt can there be 
that Moses wrote the books in question ? I could ac- 
cumulate many other passages from the Scriptures to 
this purpose ; but if what I have advanced will not con- 1 
vince you that there is affirmative evidence, and of the 
strongest kind, for Moses being the author of these 
books, nothing that I can advance will convince you. 
What if I should grant all you undertake to prove, 
(the stupidity and ignorance of the writer excepted ?) 
What if I should admit that Samuel or Ezra, or 
some other learned Jew, composed those books from 
public records, many years after the death of Moses '? 
Will it follow that there was no truth in them ? Ac- 
cording to my logic, it will only follow that they 
are not genuine books; every fact recorded in them 
may be true, whenever or by whomsoever they were 
written. It cannot be said that the Jews had no pub- 
ic records; the Bible furnishes abundance of proof to 
the contrary. I by no means admit that these books, 
as to the main part of them, were not written by Mo- 
ses ; but I do contend, that a book may contain a true 
history, though we knew not the author of it, or though 
we may be mistaken in ascribing it to a wrong author. 

305] REPLY TO PAINE. 23 


ty." This your dilemma is perfectly harmless; it hi 
not a horn to hurt the weakest logician. If Moses did 
not write this little verse, if it was inserted by Samue 
or any of his countrymen, who knew his character an 
revered his memory, will it follow that he did not writi 
any other part of the book of Numbers ? Or if he dii 
not write any part of the book of Numbers will it fol- 
low that he did not write any of the other books of 
which he is usually reputed the author ? And if he did 
write this of himself, he was justified by the occasion 
which extorted from him this commendation. Had this 
expression been written in a modern style and manner 
it would probably have given you no offence. For who 
would be so fastidious as to find fault with an illustrious 
man, who, being calumniated by his nearest relations, 
as guilty of pride and fond of power, should vindicate his 
character by saying my temper was naturally as meek 
and unassuming as that of any man upon earth ? There 
are occasions in which a modest man, who speaks truly, 
may speak proudly of himself, without forfeiting his 
general character; and there is no occasion which 
either more requires, or more excuses this conduct, 
than when he is repelling the foul and envious asper- 
sions of those who both knew his character and hai 
experienced .his kindness ; and in that predicamen 
stood Aaron and Miriam, the accusers of Moses. You 
yourself have probably felt the sting of calumny, and 
have been anxious to remove the impression. I do not 
call you a vain and arrogant coxcomb for vindicating 
your character, when in the latter part of this very 
work you boast, I hope truly, " the man does not exist 
that can say I have persecuted him, or any man, or any 
set of men, in the American revolution, or in the French 

3071 REPLY TO PAINE. 25 

revolution ; or that I have in any case returned evil for 
evil." I know not what kings and priests may say to 
this : you may not have returned to them evil for evil, 
because they never, I believe, did you any harm; but 
you have done them all the harm you could, and that 
without provocation. 

I think it needless to notice your observation upon 
what you call the dramatic style of Deuteronomy ; it 
is an ill-founded hypothesis. You might as well ask 
where the author of Caesar's Commentaries got the 
speeches of Caesar, as where the author of Deuterono- 
my got the speeches of Moses. But your argument 
that Moses was not the author of Deuteronomy, be- 
cause the reason given in that book for the observation 
of the Sabbath is different from that given in Exodus, 
merits a reply. 

You need not be told that the very name of this book 
imports, in (Sreek, a repetition of a law ; and that the 
Hebrew doctors have called it by a word of the same 
meaning. In the fifth verse of the first chapter it is 
said in our Bibles, " Moses began to declare this law ; !J 
but the Hebrew words, more properly translated, im- 
port that " Moses began, or determined to explain the 
law." This is no shift of mine to get over a difficulty ; 
the words are so rendered in most of the ancient ver- 
sions, and by Fagius, Vetablus, and Le Clerc, men 
eminently skilled in the Hebrew language. This re- 
petition and explanation of the law was a wise and 
benevolent proceeding in Moses : that those who were 
either not born, or were mere infants, when it was first 
(forty years before) delivered in Horeb, might have an 
opportunity of knowing it ; especially as Moses their 
leader was so soon to be taken from them, and they 

26 WATSON'S [30 

were about to be settled in the midst of nations given 
to idolatry and sunk in vice. Now, where is the won- 
der, that some variations, and some additions, should 
be made to a law, when a legislator thinks fit to re- 
publish it many years after its first promulgation ? 

With respect to the Sabbath, the learned are divided 
in opinion concerning its origin ; some contending that 
it was sanctified from the creation of the world ; that 
it was observed by the patriarchs before the flood ; that 
it was neglected by the Israelites during their bond- 
age in Egypt ; revived on the falling of manna in the 
wilderness : and enjoined as a positive law at Sinai. 
Others esteem its institution to have been no older 
than the age of Moses ; and argue, that what is said 
of the sanctification of the Sabbath in the book of Ge- 
nesis, is said by way of anticipation. There may be 
truth in both these accounts. To me it is probable that 
the memory of the creation was handed* down from 
Adam to all his posterity ; and that the seventh day 
was for a long time held sacred by all nations, in com- 
memoration of that event ; but that the peculiar rigid- 
ness of its observance was enjoined by Moses to the 
Israelites alone. As to there being two reasons given 
for its being kept holy one, that on that day God rested 
from the work of creation the other, that on that day 
God had given them rest from the servitude of Egypt- 
I see no contradiction in the accounts. If a man, : 
writing the history of England, should inform his 
readers that the parliament had ordered the fifth day 
of November to be kept holy, because on that day God 
delivered the nation from a bloody intended massacr 
by gunpowder ; and if, in another part of his history, he 
should assign the deliverance of our church and nation 


from popery and arbitrary power, by the arrival of King 
William, as a reason for its being kept holy ; would 
any one contend that he was not justified in both these 
ways of expression, or that we ought from thence to 
conclude that he was not the author of them both? 

You think " that law in Deuteronomy inhuman and 
brutal, which authorizes parents, the father and the 
mother, to bring their own children to have them stoned 
to death for what it is pleased to call stubbornness." 
You are aware, I suppose, that paternal power amongst 
the Romans, the Gauls, the Persians, and other na- 
tions, was of the most arbitrary kind ; that it extended 
to the taking away of the life of the child. I do not 
know whether the Israelites in the time of Moses ex- 
ercised this paternal power ; it was not a custom adopt- 
ed by all nations ; but it was by many ; and in the in- 
fancy of society, before individual families had coa- 
lesced into communities, it was probably very general. 
Now Moses, by this law, which you esteem brutal and 
inhuman, hindered such an extravagant power from 
being either introduced or exercised among the Israel- 
ites. This law is so far from countenancing the arbi- 
trary power of a father over the life of his child, that 
it takes from him the power of accusing the child be- 
fore a magistrate the father and mother of the child 
must agree in bringing the child to judgment; and it 
is not by their united will that the child was to be con- 
demned to death the elders of the city were to judge 
whether the accusation was true ; and the accusation 
was to be not merely, as you insinuate, that the child 
was stubborn, but that he was " stubborn and rebel- 
lious, a glutton and a drunkard." Considered in this 
light, you must allow the law to have been a humane 




restriction of a power improper to be lodged with a 

That you may abuse the priests, you abandon your 
subject. " Priests," you say, "preach up Deuterono- 
my, for Deuteronomy preaches up tithes." I do not 
know that priests preach up Deuteronomy more than 
they preach up other books of Scripture ; but I do know 
that tithes are not preached up in Deuteronomy more 
than in Leviticus, in Numbers, in Chronicles, in M; 
lachi, in the law, 'the history, and the prophets oft! 
Jewish nation. You go on: "It is from this boo! 
chap. 25, ver. 4, they have taken the phrase, and ap- 
plied it to tithing, 'Thou shalt not muzzle the ox 
when he treadeth out the corn :' and that this might 
not escape observation, they have noted it in the table 
of the contents at the head of the chapter, though it is 
only a single verse of less than two lines. O priests ! 
priests ! ye are willing to be compared to an ox, for the 
sake of tithes !" I cannot call this reasoning, and I 
will not pollute my page by giving it a proper appel- 
lation. Had the table of contents, instead of simply 
saying the ox is not to be muzzled, said tithes en- 
joined, or priests to be maintained there would have 
been a little ground for your censure. Whoever noted 
this phrase at the head of the chapter, had better rea- 
son for doing it than you have attributed to them. 
They did it, because St. Paul had quoted it when he 
was proving to the Corinthians that they who preach- 
ed the Gospel had a right to live by the Gospel ; it was 
Paul, and not the priests, who first applied this phrase 
to tithing. St. Paul, indeed, did not avail himself of 
the right he contended for; he was not, therefore, in- 
terested in what he said. The reason on which he 

311] REPLY TO PAINE, 29 

grounds the right is not merely this quotation, which 
YOU ridicule ; nor the appointment of the law of Mo- 
ses, which you think fabulous ; nor the injunction of 
I Jesus, which you despise; no, it is a reason founded 
in the nature of things, and which no philosopher, no 
unbeliever, no man of common sense can deny to be a 
solid reason; it amounts to thisthat " the laborer ig 
iworthy of his hire*" Nothing is so much a man's 
iown as his labor and ingenuity ; and it is entirely 
jconsonant to the law of nature, that by the innocent 
use of these he should provide for his subsistence. 
JHusbandmen, artists, soldiers, physicians, lawyers^ 
kll let out their labor and talents for a stipulated re- 
ward: why may not a priest do the same? Some ac- 
counts of you have been published in England; but. 
conceiving them to have proceeded from a design to 
Injure your character, I never read them. I know no-^ 
thing of your parentage, your education, or condition 
pf life. You may have been elevated, by your birth, 
Ixbove the necessity of acquiring the means of sustain 
ng life by the labor of either hand or head ; if this be 
he case, you ought not to despise those who have 
bme into the world in less favorable circumstances, 
f your origin has been less fortunate, you must have 
upported yourself either by manual labor or the ex-* 
rcise of your genius. Why should you think that 
onduct disreputable in priests, which you probably 
onsider as laudable in yourself? I will just mention, 
iat the payment of tithes is no new institution, but 
jhat they were paid in the most ancient times, not to 
riests only, but to kings. I could give an hundred 
pstances of this : two may be sufficient. Abraham 
aid tithes to the king of ftalenij four hundred years 

SO WATSON '3 [312 

before the law of Moses was given. The king of Sa* 
lem was priest also of the most high God. Priest! 
you see, existed in the world, and were held in hig 
estimation for kings were priests long before the iti 
postures, as you esteem them, of the Jewish and Chris 
lian dispensations were heard of. But as this instanc 
is taken from a book which you call " a book of con 
tradictions and lies" the Bible I will give you ano 
iher, from a book, to the authority of which, as it i 
written by a profane author, you probably will not i 
ject. Diogenes Lartius, in his life of Solon, cites j 
letter of Pisistratus to that lawgiver, in which 
says ic I Pisistratus, the Tyrant, am contented wit] 
the stipends which were paid to those who reigne 
before me ; the people of Athens set apart a tenth i 
the fruits of their land, not for my private use, but I 
be expended in the public sacrifices, and for the gene 
ral good," 


Having done with what you call the grammatical 
evidence that Moses was not the author of the books 
attributed to him, you come TO your historical and 
chronological evidence, and you begin with Genesis. 
Your first argument is taken from the single word 
I) L , n being found in Genesis, when it appears, from 
the book of Judges,' that the town Laish was not called 
Dai till above three hundred and thirty years after the 
deruh of Moses ; therefore the writer of Genesis, you 
conclude, must have lived after the town of Laish had 
the name of Dan given it. Lest this objection should 
not be obvious enough to a common capacity, you illus- 

3 1 3] REPLY TO PAINE. 31 

fi-ite in the following manner : " Havre-de-Grace was 
called Havre-Marat in 1793; should then any dateless 
writing be found, in after-times, with the name of Ha* 
vre- Marat, it would be certain evidence that such a 
writing could not have been written till after the year 
1793." This is a wrong conclusion. Suppose some 
hot republican should at this day publish a new edi- 
tion of any old history of France, and instead of Havre- 
de-Grace should write Havre-Marat ; and that, two or 
three thousand years hence, a man like yourself should, 
on that account, reject the whole history as spurious^ 
would he be justified in so doing? Would it not be 
reasonable to tell him that the name of Havre-Marat 
had been inserted, not by the original author of the 
history, but by a subsequent editor of it ; and to refer 
iiim, for a proof of the genuineness of the book, to the 
testimony of the whole French nation? This suppo- 
sition so obviously applies to your difficulty, that I can* 
not but recommend it to your impartial attention. But 
if this solution does not please you, I desire it may be 
proved that the Dan mentioned in Genesis was the 
same town as the Dan mentioned in Judges ; I desire, 
further, to have it proved that the Dan mentioned in 
Genesis was the name of a town and not of a riven 
It is merelr said Abraham pursued them, the enemies 
of Lot, to Dan. Now, a river was full as likely as a 
town to st op a pursuit. Lot, we know, was settled in 
the plain of Jordan ; and Jordan, we know, was com- 
posed of the united streams of two rivers called Jor 
and Dan. 

Your next difficulty respects its being said in Ge- 
nesis " These are the kings that reigned in Edom be- 
fore there reigned any king over the children of Israel; 

38 WATSON'S f 314 

this passage could only have been written, you say, 
(and 1 think you say rightly,) after the first king began 
to reign over Israel ; so far from being written by 
Moses, it could not have been written till the time of 
Saul at the least." I admit this inference, but I deny 
its application* A small addition to a book does not 
destroy either the genuineness or the authenticity of 
the whole book. I am not ignorant of the manner in 
which commentators have answered this objection of 
Spinoza, without making the concession which I have 
made ; but I have no scruple in admitting that the pas- 
sage in question, consisting of nine verses, containing 
the genealogy of some kings of Edom, might have been 
inserted in the book of Genesis after the book of Chro- 
nicles (which was called in Greek by a name import- 
ing that it contained things left out in other books) was 
written. The learned have shown that interpolations 
have happened to other books ; but these insertions by 
other hands have never been considered as invalidat- 
ing the authority of the books. 

i; Take away from Genesis," you say, " the belief 
that Moses was the author, on which only the strange 
belief that it is the word of God has stood, and there 
remains nothing of Genesis but an anonymous book 
of stories, fables, traditionary or invented absurdities, 
or of downright lies." What ! is it a story, then, that 
the world had a beginning, and that the author of it 
was God ? If you deem this a story, I am not disputing 
with a deistical philosopher, but with an atheistic mad- 
man. Is it a story, that our first parents fell from a 
paradisiacal state that this earth was destroyed by a 
deluge that Noah and his family were preserved in 
the ark, and that the world has been re-peopled by his 

315] REPLY TO PAINE. 33 

descendants ? Look into a book so common that almost 
every body has it, and so excellent that no person ought 
to be without it Grotius on the truth of the Christian 
religion and you will there meet with abundant tes- 
timony to the truth of all the principal facts recorded 
in Genesis. The testimony is not that of Jews, Chris- 
tians and priests ; it is the testimony of the philoso- 
phers, historians, and poets of antiquity. The oldest 
book in the world is Genesis ; and it is remarkable 
that those books which come nearest to it in age, 
are those which make either the most distinct men 
tion, or the most evident allusion to the facts related 
in Genesis concerning the formation of the world from 
a chaotic mass, the primeval innocence and subsequent 
fall of man, the longevity of mankind in the first ages 
of the world, the depravity of the antediluvians, and 
the destruction of the world. Read the tenth chapter 
of Genesis. It may appear to you to contain nothing 
but an uninteresting narration of the descendants of 
Shem, Ham, and Japheth ; a mere fable, an invented 
absurdity, a downright lie. No, sir, it is one of the 
most valuable and the most venerable records of anti- 
quity. It explains what all profane historians were ig- 
norant of the origin of nations. Had it told us, as 
other books do, that one nation had sprung out of the 
earth they inhabited ; another from a cricket or a grass- 
hopper; another from an oak; another from a mush- 
room ; another from a dragon's tooth ; then indeed it 
would have merited the appellation you, with so much 
temerity, bestow upon it. Instead of these absurdities, 
it gives such an account of peopling the earth after the 
deluge, as no other book in the world ever did give ; 
and the truth of which, all other books in the world, 

34 WATSON'S [316 

which contain any thing on the subject, confirm. The 
last verse of the chapter says, " These are the families 
of the sons of Noah, after their generations, in their 
nations ; and by these were the nations divided in the 
earth, after the flood." It would require great learning 
to trace out precisely, either the actual situation of all 
the countries in which these founders of empires set- 
tled, or to ascertain the extent of their dominions. This, 
however, has been done by various authors, to the sa- 
tisfaction of all competent judges ; so much at least to 
rny satisfaction, that, had I no other proof of the au- 
thenticity of Genesis, I should consider this as suffi- 
cient. But, without the aid of learning, any man who 
can barely read his Bible, and has but heard of such 
people as the Assyrians, the Elamites, the Lydians, 
the Medes, the lonians, the Thracians, will readily 
acknowledge that they had Asur, and Elam, and Lnd, 
and Madia, and Javan, and Tiras, grandsons of Noah, 
for their respective founders ; and knowing this, he will 
not, I hope, part with his Bible, as a system of fables. 
I am no enemy to philosophy ; but when philosophy 
would rob me of my Bible, I must say of it, as Cicero 
said of the twelve tables This little book alone ex- 
ceeds the libraries of all the philosophers, in the weight 
of its authority and in the extent of its utility. 

From the abuse of the Bible you proceed to that i 
Moses, and again bring forward the subject of his war 
in the land of Canaan. There are many men who 
look upon all war (would to God that all men saw it 
in the same light) with extreme abhorrence, as afflict- 
ing mankind with calamities not necessary, shocking 
to humanity, and repugnant to reason. But is it re- 
pugnant to reason that God should, by an express act 

317] REPLY TO PAINE. 35 

of his providence, destroy a wicked nation ? I am fond 
of considering the goodness of God as the leading prin- 
ciple of his conduct towards mankind, of considering 
his justice as subservient to his mercy. He punishes 
individuals and nations with the rod of his wrath; but 
I am persuaded that all his punishments originate in 
his abhorrence of sin, are calculated to lessen its in- 
fluence, and are proofs of his goodness ; inasmuch as 
it may not be possible for Omnipotence itself to com- 
municate supreme happiness to the human race whilst 
they continue servants of sin. The destruction of the 
Canaanites exhibits to all nations, in all ages, a signal 
proof of God's displeasure against sin : it has been to 
others, and it is to ourselves, a benevolent warning. 
Moses would have been the wretch you represent him, 
had he acted by his own authority alone ; but you may 
as reasonably attribute cruelty and murder to the judge 
of the land in condemning criminals to death, as butch- 
ery and massacre to Moses in executing the command 
of God. 

The Midianites, through the counsel of Balaam, 
and by the vicious instrumentality of their women, 
nad seduced a part of the Israelites to idolatry to the 
impure worship of their infamous god Baalpeor : for 
this offence, twenty-four thousand Israelites had pe- 
rished in a plague from heaven, and Moses received a 
command from God " to smite the Midianites who 
had beguiled the people." An army was equipped 
and sent against Midian. When the army returned 
victorious, Moses and the princes of the congregation 
went to meet it ; and " Moses was wroth with the 
officers." He observed the women captives, and he 
asked with astonishment, "Have ye saved all the 

36 WATSON'S [318 

women alive ? Behold, these caused the children of 
Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit 
trespass against the Lord in the matter of Peor, and 
there was a plague among the congregation." He 
then gave an order that the boys and the women 
should be put to death, but that the young maidens 
should be kept alive for themselves. I see nothing in 
this proceeding, but good policy combined with mer- 
cy. The young men might have become dangerous 
avengers of what they would esteem their country's 
wrongs ; the mothers might have again allured the 
Israelites to love licentious pleasures and the practice 
of idolatry, and brought another plague upon the con- 
gregation ; but the young maidens, not being polluted 
by the flagitious habits of their mothers, nor likely to cre- 
ate disturbance by rebellion, were kept alive. You give 
a different turn to the matter ; you say " that thirty- 
two thousand women-children were consigned to de- 
bauchery by the order of Moses." Prove this, and I will 
allow that Moses was the horrid monster you make 
him prove this, and I will allow that the Bible is 
what you call it " a book of lies, wickedness, and 
blasphemy," prove this, or excuse my warmth if I 
say to you, as Paul said to Elymas the sorcerer, who 
sought to turn away Sergius Paulus from the faith, 
" O full of all subtilty and of all mischief, thou 
child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, 
wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the 
Lord?" I did not, when I began these letters, think 
that I should have been moved to this severity of re- 
buke by any thing you could have written ; but when 
so gross a misrepresentation is made of God's pro- 
ceedings, coolness would be a crime. The women 

319] REPLY TO PAINE. 37 

children were not reserved for the purposes of de- 
bauchery, but of slavery a custom abhorrent from 
our manners, but every where practiced in former 
times, and still practiced in countries where the benig- 
nity of the Christian religion has not softened the 
ferocity of human nature. You here admit a part of 
the account given in the Bible respecting the expedi- 
tion against Midian to be a true account ; it is not 
unreasonable to desire that you will admit the whole, 
or show sufficient reason why you admit one part and 
reject the other. I will mention the part to which 
you have paid no attention. The Israelitish army 
consisted but of twelve thousand men, a mere hand- 
ful when opposed to the people of Midian ; yet, when 
the officers made a muster of their troops after their 
return from the war, they found that they had not lost 
a single man ! This circumstance struck them as so 
decisive an evidence of God's interposition, that out 
of the spoils they had taken they offered "an obla- 
tion to the Lord, an atonement for their souls." Do 
but believe what the captains of thousands and the 
captains of hundreds believed at the time when these 
things happened, and we shall never more hear of 
your objections to the Bible from its account of the 
wars of Moses. 

You produce two or three other objections respect- 
ing the genuineness of the first five books of the 
Bible. I cannot stop to notice them : every commen- 
tator answers them in a manner suited to the appre- 
hension of even a mere English reader. You calculate 
to the thousandth part of an inch, the length of the 
iron bed of Og the king of Bashan ; but you do not 
prove that the bed was too big for the body, or that a 

38 WATSON'S [320 I 

Patagonian would have been lost in it. You make no 
allowance for the size of a royal bed, nor ever sus- 
pect that king Og might have been possessed with 
the same kind of vanity which occupied the mind of 
king Alexander when he ordered his soldiers to en- 
large the size of their beds, that they might give the 
Indians, in succeeding ages, a great idea of the pro- 
digious stature of a Macedonian. In many parts of 
your work you speak much in commendation of 
science. I join with you in every commendation you 
can give it ; but you speak of it in such a manner as 
to give room to believe that you are a great proficient 
in it ; if this be the case, I would recommend a pro- 
blem to your attention, the solution of which you will 
readily allow to be far above the powers of a mac 
conversant only, as you represent priests and bishop 
to be, in 7nc, hcec, hoc. The problem is this to de 
termine the height to which a human body, preserving 
its similarity of figure, may be augmented before it i 
will perish by its own weight. When you have solved ' 
this problem, we shall know whether the bed of the king 
of Bashan was too big for any giant ; whether the ex- 
istence of a man twelve or fifteen feet high is in the 
nature of things impossible. My philosophy teaches 
me to doubt of many things ; but it does not teach me 
to reject every testimony which is opposite to my ex- 
perience : had I been in Shetland, I could, on proper 
testimony, have believed in the existence of the Lin- 
colnshire ox, or of the largest dray-horse in London; 
though the oxen and horses in Shetland had not been 
bigger th? *i mastiffs. 



Having finished your objections to the genuineness 
f the books of Moses, you proceed to your remarks 
n the book of Joshua ; and from its internal evidence 
rou endeavor to prove that this book was not written 
>y Joshua. What then ? what is your conclusion ? 

That it is anonymous and without authority." 
Stop a little ; your conclusion is not connected with 
our premises ; your friend Euclid would have been 
shamed of it. " Anonymous, and therefore without 
uthority 1" I have noticed this solecism before ; 
)ut as you frequently bring it forward and indeed 
rour book stands much in need of it I will sub- 
mit to your consideration another observation on the 
ubject. The book called Fleta is anonymous ; but 

is riot on that account without authority. Domes- 
ay book is anonymous, and was written above seven 
mndred years ago ; yet our courts of law do not hold it 
to be without authority as to the facts related in it. Yes, 
ou will say, but this book has been preserved with pe- 
culiar care amongst the records of the nation. And 
who told you that the Jews had no records, or that they 
id not preserve them with singular care ? Josephus 
jays the contrary ; and in the Bible itself an appeal is 
nade to many books which have perished ; such as 
the book of Jasher, the book of Nathan, of Abijah, of 
ddo, of Jehu, of natural history by Solomon, of the 
icts of Manasseh, and others which might be men- 
ioned. If any one, having access to the journals of 
he lords and commons, to the books of the treasury, 
Far-office, privy council, and other public documents, 

40 WATSON'S [32$ 

should at this day write a history of the reigns o 
George the First and Second, and should publish i 
without his name, would any man, three or foirj 
hundreds or thousands of years hence, question thtJ 
authority of that book, when he knew that the whole I 
British nation had received it as an authentic boolj 
from the time of its first publication to the age irj 
which he lived? This supposition is in point. Thtj 
books of the Old Testament were composed from thcj 
records of the Jewish nation, and they have been re I 
ceived as true by that nation, from the time in whicl 
they were written to the present day. Dodsley's An I 
nual Register is an anonymous book, we only knovl 
the name of its editor ; the New Annual Register i I 
an anonymous book; the Reviews are anonymouJ 
books ; but do we, or will our posterity esteem thos<| 
books of no authority ? On the contrary, they ar*l 
admitted at present, and will be received in after-age:|| 
as authoritative records of the civil, and military, and 
literary history of England and of Europe. So little] 
foundation is there for our being startled by your as-| 
sertion, " It is anonymous, and without authority." 

If I am right in this reasoning, (and I protest toyoi 
that I do not see any error in it,) all the argument! 
you adduce in proof that the book of Joshua was no 
written by Joshua, nor that of Samuel by Samuel, arc 
nothing to the purpose for which you have brought 
them forward : these books may be books of authority 
though all you advance against the genuineness o 
them should be granted. No article of faith is injur 
ed by allowing that there is no such positive proof 
when or by whom these and some other books of hoi) 
Scripture were written, as to exclude all possibility 


Lf doubt and cavil. There is no necessity, indeed, 

lo allow this. The chronological and historical diffi- 

[ulties, which others before you have produced, have 

leen answered, and, as to the greatest part of them, so 

I/ell answered, that I will not waste the reader's time 

ly entering into a particular examination of them. 

I You make yourself merry with what you call the 

iple of the sun standing still upon mount Gibeon, and 

[lie moon in the valley of Ajalon ; and you say that 

the story detects itself, because there is not a nation 

BL the world that knows any thing about it." How 

inn you expect that there should, when there is not a 

llation in the world whose annals reach this era by 

Rany hundred years? It happens, however, that you 

.(re probably mistaken as to the fact; a confused tra- 

ttion concerning this miracle, and a similar one in 

pie time of Ahaz, when the sun went back ten de- 

Htes, has been preserved amongst one of the most 

nt nations, as we are informed by one of the 

5 lost ancient historians. Herodotus, in his Euterpe, 

peaking of the Egyptian priests, says " They told 

e that the sun had four times deviated from his 

mrse, having twice risen where he uniformly goes 

>wn, and twice gone down where he uniformly rises. 

'his however had produced no alteration in the cli- 

ate of Egypt ; the fruits of the earth and the phe- 

)inena of the Nile had always been the same.'' 

-e's Translation.) The last part of this observa- 

1 >n confirms the conjecture, that this account of the 

[jyptian priests had a reference to the two miracles 

i specting the sun mentioned in Scripture; for they 

ere not of that kind which could introduce any 

lange in climates or seasons. You would have been 

42 WATScta'sf [324 

contented to admit the account of this miracle as a| 
fine piece of poetical imagery : you may have see 
some Jewish doctors, and some Christian comme 
tators, who consider it as such, but improperly, in m 
opinion. I think it idle at least, if not impious, 
undertake to explain how the miracle was performed 
but one who is not able to explain the mode of doin 
a thing, argues ill if he hence infers that the thin 
was not done. We are perfectly ignorant how th 
sun was formed, how the planets were projected 
the creation, how they are still retained in their orbi 
by the power of gravity ; but we admit, notwiihstanc 
ing, that the sun was formed, that the planets we 
then projected, and that they are still retained in the 
orbits. The machine of the universe is in the handlj 
of God ; he can stop the motion of any part, or of the j 
whole of it, with less trouble and less danger of in- 
juring it than you can stop your watch. In testi-H 
mony of the reality of the miracle, the author of the| 
book says " Is not this written in the book of Ja-| 
sher?" No author in his senses would have appeale 
in proof of his veracity, to a book which did not exisf 
or in attestation of a fact which, though it did exis 
was not recorded in it ; We may safely therefore co 
elude, that, at the time the book of Joshua was writt 
there was such a book as the book of Jasher, and th 
the miracle of the sun's standing still was recorded i 
that book. But this observation, you will say, does ] 
prove the fact of the sun's having stood still. I ha? 
not produced it as a proof of that fact ; but it prove- 
that the author of the book of Joshua believed tnd 
fact, that the people of Israel admitted the authority 
of the book of Jasher. An appeal to a fabulous boo! 

325] ftEPLY TO PAINE. 43 

would have been as senseless an insult upon their 
understanding, as it would have been upon ours had 
Kapin appealed to the Arabian Nights' Entertainments 
as a proof of the battle of Hastings. 

I cannot attribute much weight to your argument 
against the genuineness of the book of Joshua, from 
its being said that " Joshua burned Ai, and made it 
an heap for ever, even a desolation unto this day." 
I Joshua lived twenty-four years after the burning of 
Ai ; and if he wrote his history in the latter part of 
his life, what absurdity is there in saying, Ai is still 
in ruins, or Ai is in ruins to this very day ? A young 
| man, who had seen the heads of the rebels in forty- 
five, when they were first stuck upon the poles at 
Temple-Bar, might, twenty years afterwards, in at- 
testation of his veracity in speaking of the fact, have 
justly said^And they are there to this very day. 
I Whoever wrote the Gospel of St. Matthew, it was 
(written not many centuries, probably (I had almost 
said certainly) not a quarter of a century after the 
death of Jesus ; yet the author, speaking of the pot- 
ter's field which had been purchased by the chief 
jpriests with the money they had given to Judas to 
Ibetray his Master, says that it was therefore called 
ithe field of blood unto this day ; and in another place, 
ihe says, that the story of the body of Jesus being sto- 
len out of the sepulchre was commonly reported 
among the Jews until this day. Moses, in his old 
age, had made use of a similar expression, when he 
I put the Israelites in mind of what the Lord had done 
jto the Egyptians in the Red Sea. " The Lord hath 
(destroyed them unto this day." Deut. 11 : 4. 

In the last chapter of the book of Joshua it is related 

44 WATSON *9 [326 

that Joshua assembled all the tribes of Israel to She- 
chem, and there, in the presence of the elders and prin- 
cipal men of Israel, he recapitulated, in a short speech, 
all that God had done for their nation from the calling 
of Abraham to that time, when they were settled in 
the land which God had promised to their forefathers* 
In finishing his speech, he said to them, " Choose you 
this day whom you will serve ; whether the gods which 
your fathers served, that were on the other side of the 
flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye 
dwell : but as for me and my house, we will serve the* 
Lord." And the people answered and said, " God for- 
bid that we should forsake the Lord to serve other ; 
gods." Joshua urged farther, that God would not suffer 
them to worship other gods in fellowship with him* 
They answered that " they would serve the Lord.' 1 
Joshua then said to them, ' ; Ye are witnesses agains 
yourselves that ye have chosen you the Lord to serve 
him." And they said, " We are witnesses." Here w 
a solemn covenant between Joshua, on the part of the 
Lord, and ail the men of Israel, on their own par 
The text then says, " So Joshua made a covenant wit 
the people that day, and set them a statute and an or- 
dinance in Shechem ; and Joshua wrote these word* 
in the book of the Law of God. 1 ' Here is a proof of 
two things first, that there was then, a few years af- 
ter the death of Moses, existing a book called the Book 
of the Law of God ; the same, without doubt, which 
Moses had written, and committed to the custody oi 
the Levites, that it might be kept in the ark of the co- 
venant of the Lord, that it might be a witness against 
them secondly, that Joshua wrote a part at least ct 
his own transactions in that very book, as an addition 

3271 REPLY TO PAINE. 45 

to it. It is not a proof that he wrote all his own trans- 
actions in any book ; but I submit entirely to the judg- 
ment of every candid man, whether this proof of his 
having recorded a very material transaction does not 
make it probable that he recorded other material trans- 
actions ; that he wrote the chief part of the book of 
Joshua; and that such things as happened after his 
death have been inserted in it by others, in order to 
render the history more complete. 

The book of Joshua, chap. 6, ver. 26, is quoted in 
the first book of Kings, chap. 16 : 34. " In his (Ahab's) 
days did Kiel the Bethelite build Jericho ; he laid the 
foundation thereof in Abiram his first born, and set up 
the gates thereof in his youngest son Segub, according 
to the word of the Lord which he spake by Joshua the 
son of Nun. 5 ' Here is a proof that the book of Joshua 
is older than the first book of Kings : but that is not 
all which may reasonably be inferred, I do not say 
proved, from this quotation. It may be inferred from 
the phrase, " according to the word of the Lord which 
he spake by Joshua the son of Nun," that Joshua wrote 
down the word which the Lord had spoken. In Baruch 
(which, though an apocryphal book, is authority for 
this purpose) there is a similar phrase as thou spakest 
by thy servant Moses in the day when thou didst com- 
mand him to write thy law. 

I think it unnecessary to make any observations on 
what you say relative to the book of Judges ; but I can- 
not pass unnoticed your censure of the book of Ruth, 
which you call " an idle bungling story, foolishly told, 
nobody knows by whom, about a strolling country girl 
creeping slily to bed to her cousin Boaz : pretty stuff 
indeed/' you exclaim, " to be called the word of God !" 

46 WATSON'S [328 

It seems to me that you do not perfectly comprehend 
what is meant by the expression the word of God 
or the divine authority of the Scriptures : I will ex- 
plain it to you in the words of Dr. Law, late bishop 
of Carlisle, and in those of St. Austin. My first quota- 
tion is from bishop Law's Theory of Religion, a book 
not undeserving your notice. " The true sense then 
of the divine authority of the books of the Old Testa- 
ment, and which perhaps is enough to denominate 
them in general divinely inspired, seems to be this : 
that as in those times God has all along, besides the 
inspection or superintendency of his general provi- 
dence, interfered upon particular occasions, by giving 
express commissions to some persons (thence called 
prophets) to declare his will in various manners and 
degrees of evidence, as best suited the occasion, time, 
and nature of the subject, and in all other cases left 
them wholly to themselves : in like manner he has in- 
terposed his more immediate assistance (and notified 
it to them, as they did to the world) in the recording 
of these revelations; so far as that was necessary, 
amidst the common (but from hence termed sacred) 
history of those times ; and mixed with various othei 
occurrences, in which the historian's own natural qua- 
lifications were sufficient to enable him to relate things 
with all the accuracy they required." The passage 
from St. Austin is this : " I am of opinion that those 
men to whom the Holy Ghost revealed what ought to 
be received as authoritative in religion, might write 
some things as men, with historical diligence, and other 
things as prophets, by divine inspiration ; and that these 
things are so distinct, that the former may be attribut- 
ed to themselves as contributing to the increase of 

I 329] REPLY TO P.\INE. 47 

knowledge, and the latter to God speaking, by them, 
things appertaining to the authority of religion." Whe- 
ther this opinion be right or wrong, I do not here in- 
quire ; it is the opinion of many learned men and good 
Christians; and if you will adopt it as your opinion, 
you will see cause, perhaps, to become a Christian 
yourself; and you will see cause to consider chrono- 
logical, geographical, or genealogical errors apparent 
mistakes or real contradictions as to historical facts 
needless repetitions and trifling interpolations indeed 
you will see cause to consider all the principal objec- 
tions of your book to be absolutely without foundation. 
Only receive the Bible as composed by upright and 
well informed, though, in some points, fallible men, 
(for I exclude all fallibility when they profess to de- 
liver the word of God,) and you must receive it as a 
book revealing to you, in many parts, the express will 
of God ; and in other parts, relating to you the ordina- 
ry history of the times. Give but the authors of the 
Bible that credit which you give to other historians ; 
believe them to deliver the word of God, when they 
tell you that they do so; believe, when they relate 
other things as of themselves and not of the Lord, that 
jthey wrote to the best of their knowledge and capaci- 
ty, and you will be in your belief something very dif- 
Iferent from a deist; you may not be allowed to aspire 
to the character of an orthodox believer, but you will 
|not be an unbeliever in the divine authority of the 
i|Bible, though you should admit human mistakes and 
i) human opinions to exist in some parts of it. This I 
make to be the first step towards the removal of the 
: I doubts of many sceptical men; and when they are ad- 
! vanced thus far, the grace of God assisting, a teachabw* 

48 WATSON'S [330 

disposition and a pious intention may carry them on 
to perfection. 

As to Ruth, you do an injury to her character. She 
was not a strolling country girl. She had been mar- 
ried ten years ; and being left a widow without chil- 
dren, she accompanied her mother-in-law, returning 
into her native country, out of which, with her hus- 
band and her two sons, she had been driven by a fa- 
mine. The disturbances in France have driven many 
men with their families to America; if, ten year 
hence, a woman, having lost her husband and he 
children, should return to France with a daughter-in- 
law, would you be justified in calling the daughter-in- 
law a strolling country girl ? "But she crept slily to 
bed to her cousin Boaz." I do not find it so in the 
history as a person imploring protection, she laid 
herself down at the foot of an aged kinsman's bed, 
and she rose up with as much innocence as she had 
laid herself down. She was afterward married 
Boaz, and reputed by all her neighbors a virtuous wo 
man ; and they were more likely to know her charac- 
ter than ybu are. Whoever reads the book of Ruth 
bearing in mind the simplicity of ancient manner 
will find it an interesting story of a poor young wo 
man, following in a strange land the advice, and af 
fectionately attaching herself to the fortunes of th 
mother of her deceased husband. 

The two books of Samuel come next under your 
review. You proceed to show that these books were 
not written by Samuel, that they are anonymous, and 
thence, you conclude, without authority. I need no 
here repeat what I have said upon the fallacy of you 
conclusion 5 and as to your proving that the book 

331] REPLY TO PAINE. 49 

were not written by Samuel, you might have spared 
yourself some trouble if you had recollected that it is 
generally admitted that Samuel did not write any 
part of the second book which bears his name, and 
only a part of the first. It would, indeed, have been 
an inquiry not undeserving your notice, in many parts 
of your work, to have examined what was the opinion 
of learned men respecting the authors of the several 
books of the Bible ; you would have found that you 
were in many places fighting a phantom of your own 
raising, and proving what was generally admitted. 
\ r ery little certainty, I think, can at this time be ob- 
tained on this subject ; but that you may have some 
knowledge of what has been conjectured by men of 
judgment, I will quote to you a passage from Dr. 
Hartley's observations on Man. The author himself 
does not vouch for the truth of his observations, for 
he begins it with a supposition "I suppose, then, 
that the Pentateuch consists of the writings of Moses, 
put together by Samuel, with a very few additions ; 
that the books of Joshua and Judges -were, in like 
manner, collected by him ; and the book of Ruth, with 
the first part of the book of Samuel, written by him ; 
that the latter part of the first book of Samuel, and 
the second book, were written by the prophets who 
succeeded Samuel, suppose Nathan and Gad; that 
the books of Kings and Chronicles are extracts from 
the records of the succeeding prophets concerning 
their own times, and from the public genealogical ta- 
bles made by Ezra; that the books of Ezra and Ne- 
hemiah are collections of like records, some written 
by Ezra and Nehemiah, and some by their predeces- 
sors -, that the book of Esther was written by some 

50 WATSON'S [3S,a 

eminent Jew, in or near the times of the transactions 
there recorded, perhaps Mordecai; the book of Job 
by a Jew, of an uncertain time ; the Psalms by Da- 
vid, and other pious persons ; the books of Proverbs 
and Canticles by Solomon; the book of Ecclesiastes 
by Solomon, or perhaps by a Jew of later times, speak- 
ing in his person, but not with an intention to make 
him pass for the author ; the prophecies by the pro- 
phets whose names they bear; and the books of the 
New Testament by the persons to whom they are usu- 
ally ascribed." I have produced this passage to you, not 
merely to show you that, in a great part of your work, 
you are attacking what no person is interested in de- 
fending, but to convince you that a wise and good 
man, and a firm believer in revealed religion for such 
was Dr. Hartley, and no priest did not reject the 
anonymous books of the Old Testament as books 
without authority. I shall not trouble either you or 
myself with any more observations on that head ; you 
may ascribe the two books of Kings and the two books 
of Chronicles to what authors you please ; I am satis- 
fied with knowing that the annals of the Jewish na- 
tion were written in the time of Samuel, and proba- 
bly, in all succeeding times, by men of ability, who 
lived in or near the times of which they write. Of 
the truth of this observation we have abundant proof, 
not only from the testimony of Josephus and of the 
writers of the Talmuds, but from the Old Testament 
itself. I will content myself with citing a few places. 
" Now the acts of David the king, first and last, be- 
hold they are written in the book of Samuel the seer, 
and in the book of Nathan the prophet, and in the 
book of Gad the seer." 1 Chron. 29 : 29. "Now the 

333] REPLY TO PAINE. 51 

rest of the acts of Solomon, first and last, are they not 
written in the book of Nathan the prophet, and in the 
prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite, and in the visions 
of Iddo the seer?" 2 Chron. 9 : 29. "Now the acts 
of Rehoboam, first and last, are they not written in 
the book of Shemaiah the prophet, and of Iddo the 
seer, concerning genealogies ?" 2 Chronicles, 12 : 15. 
"Now the rest of the acts of Jehoshaphat, first and 
last, behold they are written in the book of Jehu, the 
son of Hanini." 2 Chron. 20 : 34. Is it possible for 
writers to give a stronger evidence of their veracity, 
than by referring their readers to the books from 
which they had extracted the materials of their his- 
tory ? 

<: The two books of Kings," you say, "are little 
more than a history of assassinations, treachery and 
war." That the kings of Israel and Judah were 
many of them very wicked persons, is evident from 
the history which is given of them in the Bible ; but 
it ought to he remembered that their wickedness is 
not to be attributed to their religion; nor were the 
people of Israel chosen to be the people of God on 
account of their wickedness ; nor was their being 
chosen, a cause of it. One may wonder indeed, that 
having experienced so many singular marks of God's 
goodness towards their nation, they did not at once 
become, and continue to be, (what, however, they 
have long been,) strenuous advocates for the worship 
of one only God, the maker of heaven and earth. 
This was the purpose for which they were chosen, 
and this purpose has been accomplished. For above 
three-and-twenty hundred years, the Jews have uni- 
formly witnessed, to all the nations of the earth, the 

52 WATSON'S [334 

unity of God and his abomination of idolatry. But as 
you look upon " the appellation of the Jews being 
God's chosen people, as a lie, which the priests and 
leaders of the Jews had invented to cover the base- 
ness of their own characters, and which Christian 
priests, sometimes as corrrupt, and often as cruel, 
have professed to believe," I will plainly state to you 
the reasons which induce me to believe that it is no 
Lie, and I hope they will be such reasons as you wil 
not attribute either to cruelty or corruption. 

To any one contemplating the universality of things 
and the fabric of nature, this globe of earth, with the 
men dwelling on its surface, will not appear (exclu- 
sive of the divinity of their souls) of more importance 
than a hillock of ants ; all of which, some with corn, 
some with eggs, some without any thing, run hithei 
and thither, bustling about a little heap of dust. This 
is a thought of the immortal Bacon ; and it is admira- 
bly fitted to humble the pride of philosophy, attempt- 
ing to prescribe forms to the proceedings, and bounds 
to the attributes of God. We may as easily circum- 
scribe infinity as penetrate the secret purposes of the 
Almighty. There are but two ways by which I car 
acquire any knowledge of the Supreme Being by rea 
son, and by revelation ; to you, who reject revelation 
there is but one. Now, my reason informs me tha 
God has made a great difference between the kinds o 
animals, with respect to their capacity of enjoying 
happiness. Every kind is perfect in its order; but i 
we compare different kinds together, one will appea:| 
to be greatly superior to another. An animal whic 
has but one sense, has but one source of happines 
but if it be supplied with what is suited to that sens 


; enjoys all the happiness of which it is capable, and 
s in its nature perfect. Other sorts of animals, which 
lave two or three senses, and which have also abun- 
ant means of gratifying them, enjoy twice or thrice 
s much happiness as those do which have but one* 
n the same sort of animals there is a great difference 
mongst individuals, one having the senses more per- 
ect, and the body less subject to disease, than another* 
3ence, if I were to form a judgment of the divine 
oodness by this use of my reason, I could not but say 
lat it was partial and unequal. " What shall we say 
then? Is God unjust? God forbid!" His goodness 
nay be unequal without being imperfect 5 it must be 
jstimated from the whole, and not from a part. Every 
>rder of beings is so sufficient for its own happiness, 
ind so conducive at the same time to the happiness of 
5 very other, that, in one view, it seems to be made for 
tself alone, and in another, not for itself, but for every 
)ther. Could we comprehend the whole of the im- 
nense fabric which God hath formed, I am persuaded 
lat we should see nothing but perfection, harmony 
nd beauty in every part of it ; but whilst we dispute 
ibout parts, we neglect the whole, and discern nothing 
>ut supposed anomalies and defects. The maker of a 
vatch, or the builder of a ship, is not to be blamed be- 
ause a spectator cannot discover either the beauty or 
le use of the disjointed parts. And shall we dare to 
ccuse God of injustice, for not having distributed the 
ifts of nature in the same degree to all kinds of anl- 
aals, when it is probable that this very inequality of 
istribution may be the means of producing the great- 
st sum total of happiness to the whole system ? In 
xactly t'ae same manner may we reason concerning 

64 WATSON'S [336 

the acts of God's especial providence. If we consider 
any one act, such as that of appointing the Jews to be 
his peculiar people, as unconnected with every other, 
it may appear to be a partial display of his goodness ; 
it may excite doubts concerning the wisdom or the be- 
nignity of his divine nature. But if we connect the 
history of the Jews with that of other nations, from 
the most remote antiquity to the present time, we shall 
discover that they were not chosen so muc! r or their 
own benefit, or on account of their own merit, as for 
the general benefit of mankind. To the Egyptians, 
Chaldeans, Grecians, Romans, to all the people of the 
earth, they were formerly, and they are still to all civi- 
lized nations, a beacon set upon a hill, to warn them 
from idolatry, to light them to the sanctuary of a 
holy, just, and good. Why should we suspect such a 
dispensation of being a lie? when, even from the little 
which we can understand of it, we see that it is founded 
in wisdom, carried on for the general good, and ana- 
logous to all that reason teaches us concerning the 
nature of God. 

Several things you observe are mentioned in the 
book of the Kings, such as the drying up of Jeroboam's 
hand, the ascent of Elijah into heaven, the destruction 
of the children who mocked Elisha, and the resurrec- 
tion of a dead man : these circumstances being men* 
tioned in the book of Kings, and not in that of Chro- 
nicles, is a proof to you that they are lies. I esteem it 
a very erroneous mode of reasoning, which, from the 
silence of one author concerning a particular circum* I 
stance, infers the want of veracity in another who men* | 
lions it, and this observation is still mere cogent when 
applied to a book which is only a supplement to, i 

ftfcPLY fO PAINE* 85 

abridgment of other books ; and under this description 
the book of Chronicles has been considered by all 
writers. But though you will not believe the miracle 
of the drying up of Jeroboam's hand, what can you say 
to the prophecy which was then delivered concerning 
the future destruction of the idolatrous altar of Jero- 
)oam? The prophecy is thus written, 1 Kings, 13 2 3 
; Behold a child shall be born unto the house of David, 
Josiah by name, and upon thee (the altar) shall he 
offer the priests of the high places." Here is a clear 
prophecy ; the name, family, and office of a particular 
3erson are described in the year 975 (according to the 
Bible chronology) before Christ* About 350 years afte* 
the delivery of the prophecy you will find, by consult- 
.ng the second book of Kings, (chap. 23 : 15, 16,) this 
prophecy fulfilled in all its parts* 

You make a calculation that Genesis was not writ- 
ten till SOO years after Moses, and that it is of the same 
age, and you may probably think of the same authors 
ty, as ^Esop's fables. You give, what you call the evi- 1 
dence of this, the air of a demonstration " It has but 
two stages ; first, the account of the kings of Edoirij 
mentioned in Genesis, is taken from Chronicles, and 
therefore the book of Genesis was written after the 
book of Chronicles : secondly, the book of Chronicles 
was not begun to be written till after Zedekiah, in 
whose time Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem, 588 
years before Christ, and more than 860 after Moses." 
Having answered this objection before, I might be ex- 
cused taking any more notice of it j but as you build 
much, in this place, upon the strength of your argu- 1 
ment, I will show its weakness when it is properly 
stated. A few verses in the book of Genesis could not 




56 \VAT3o.Vd [338 

be written by Moses ; therefore no part of Genesis 
could be written by Moses : a child would deny your 
therefore. Again, a few verses in the book of Genesis 
could not be written by Moses, because they speak of 
kings of Israel, there having been no kings of Israel 
in the time of Moses; and therefore they could not 
written by Samuel, or by Solomon, or any other p< 
son who lived after there were kings in Israel, exce 
by the author of the book of Chronicles ; this is also 
an illegitimate inference from your position. Again, a 
few verses in the book of Genesis are, Word for won 
the same as a few verses in the book of Chronicles 
therefore the author of the book of Genesis must hav 
taken them from Chronicles ; another lame conclusior 
Why might not the author of the book of Chronicle 
have taken them from Genesis, as he has taken man 
other genealogies, supposing them to have been in 
serted in Genesis by Samuel ? But where, you ma 
ask, could Samuel, or any other person, have foun 
the account of the kings of Edom? Probably in th 
public records of the nation, which were certainly a 
open for inspection to Samuel, and the other prophets 
as they were to the author of Chronicles. I hold 
needless to employ more time on the subject. 


At length you come to two books, Ezra and Nehe- 
miah, which you allow to be genuine books, giving an 
account of the return of the Jews from the Babylonian 
captivity, about 536 years before Christ ; but then you 
say, " those accounts are nothing to us, nor to an 
other persons, unless it be to the Jews, as a part of 

339] REPLY TO PAINE. 57 

the history of their nation : and there is just as much 
of the word of God in those books as there is in any 
of the histories of France, or in Rapin's History of 
England." Here let us stop a moment, and try if 
from your own concessions it be not possible to con- 
fute your argument. Ezra and Nehemiah, you grant, 
are genuine books "but they are nothing to us." 
The very first verse of Ezra says the prophecy of 
Jeremiah was fulfilled : is it nothing to us to know 
that Jeremiah was a true prophet ? Do but grant that 
the supreme Being communicated to any of the sons 
of men a knowledge of future events, so that their 
predictions were plainlv verified, and you will find 
little difficulty in admitting the truth of revealed re- 
ligion. Is it nothing to us to know that, five hundred 
and thirty-six years before Christ, the books of Chro- 
nicles, Kings, Judges, Joshua, Deuteronomy, Num- 
bers, Leviticus, Exodus, Genesis, every book the 
authority of which you have attacked, are all referred 
to by Ezra and Nehemiah as authentic books, con- 
taining the history of the Israelitish nation from Abra- 
ham to that very time? Is it nothing to us to know 
that the history of the Jews is true ? It is every 
thing to us ; for if that history be not true, Christian- 
ity must be false. The Jews are the root, we are the 
branches " graffed in amongst them ;" to whom per- 
tain " the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, 
and the giving of the law, and the service of God, 
and the promises ; whose are the fathers, and, whom, 
as concerning the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, 
God blessed forever. Amen." 

The history of the Old Testament has, without 
doubt, some difficulties in it ; but a minute philo- 

58 WATSON'S [340 

sopher, who busies himself in searching them out, 
whilst he neglects to contemplate the harmony of aL 
its parts, the wisdom and goodness of God displayed I 
throughout the whole, appears to me to be like a pur- 
blind man, who, in surveying a picture, objects to the 
simplicity of the design and the beauty of the exe- 
cution, from the asperities he has discovered in the 
canvass and the coloring. The history of the Old 
Testament, notwithstanding the real difficulties which 
occur in it, notwithstanding the scoffs and cavils of | 
unbelievers, appears to me to have such internal evi- 
dences of its truth, to be so corroborated by the mos 
ancient profane histories, so confirmed by the presen 
circumstances of the world, that if I were not a Chris 
tian, I would become a Jew. You think this histor 
to be a collection of lies, contradictions, and blasphe- 
mies : I look upon it to be the oldest, the truest, the 
most comprehensive, and the most important history 
in the world. I consider it as giving more satisfac- 
tory proofs of the being and attributes of God, of the 
origin and end of human kind, than ever was attained 
by the deepest researches of the most enlightened 
philosophers. The exercise of our reason in the in- 
vestigation of truths respecting the nature of God 
and the future expectations of human kind, is highly 
useful ; but I hope I shall be pardoned by the meta- 
physicians in saying that the chief utility of such 
disquisitions consists in this that they make us ac- 
quainted with the weakness of our intellectual facul- 
ties. I do not presume to measure other men by my 
standard ; you may have clearer notions than I am 
able to form of the infinity of space ; of the eternit; 
of duration ; of necessary existence j of the conne 


341] REPLY TO PAINE. 59 

tion between necessary existence and intelligence; 
between intelligence and benevolence ; you may see 
nothing in the universe but organized matter ; or, ie 
jecting a material, you may see nothing but an ideal 
world. With a mind weary of conjecture, fatigued 
by doubt, sick of disputation, eager for knowledge, 
anxious for certainty, and unable to attain it by the 
best use of my reason in matters of the utmost im- 
portance, I have long ago turned my thoughts to an 
impartial examination of the proofs on which revealed 
religion is grounded, and I am convinced of its truth. 
This examination is a subject within the reach of hu- 
man capacity : you have come to one conclusion res- 
pecting it, I have come to another ; both of us cannot 
be right ; may God forgive him that is in an error. 

You ridicule, in a note, the story of an angel ap- 
pearing to Joshua. Your mirth you will perceive to 
Le misplaced, when you consider the design of this 
appearance : it was to assure Joshua, that the same 
God who had appeared to Moses, ordering him to pull off 
his shoes, because he stood on holy ground, had now 
appeared to himself. Was this no encouragement to 
a man who was about to engage in war with many 
nations? Had it no tendency to confirm his faith? 
Was it no lesson to him to obey in all things the com- 
mands of God, and to give the glory of his conquest 
to the author of them, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and 
Jacob ? As to your wit about pulling off the shoe, it ori- 

i ginates, I think, in your ignorance ; you ought to have 
known that this rite was an indication of reverence to 

| the Divine presence ; and that the custom of entering 

| barefoot into their temples subsists, in some countries, 

j to this day. 


60 WATSON'S [342 

You allow the book of Ezra to be a genuine book ; 
but that the author of it may not escape without a 
blow, you say that in matters of record it is not to be 
depended on, and as a proof of your assertion, you 
tell us that the total amount of the numbers who re- 
turned from Babylon does not correspond with the 
particulars ; and that every child may have an argu- 
ment for its infidelity, you display the particulars, and 
show your skill in arithmetic by summing them up. 
And can you suppose that Ezra, a man of great learn- 
ing, knew so little of science, so little of the lowest 
branch of science, that he could not give his readers 
the sum-total of sixty particular sums ? You know 
undoubtedly that the Hebrew letters denoted also 
numbers ; and that there is such a similarity between 
some of these letters that it was extremely easy for a 
transcriber of a manuscript to mistake a 3 for a r (or 
2 for 20) a 3 for a 3 (or 3 for 50) an for a ^ (or a 5 
for 200.) Now, what have we to do with numerical 
contradictions in the Bible, but to attribute them, 
wherever they occur, to this obvious source of error 
the inattention of the transcriber in writing one letle 
for another that was like it ? 

I should extend these letters to a length troubleson 
to the reader, to you, and to myself, if I answered 
nutely every objection you have made, and rectifie 
^ every error into which you have fallen ; it may be su 
ficient briefly to notice some of the chief. 

The character represented in Job under the name < 
Satan, is, you say, " the first and the only time th 
name is mentioned in the Bible." Now, I find th 
name, as denoting an enemy, frequently occurring in 
the Old Testament : thus, 2 Sam. 19 : 22, " What hav 

343] REPLY TO PAINE. 61 

I to do with you, ye sons of Zeruiah, that ye should 
this day be adversaries unto me ?" In the original it is, 
satans unto me. Again, 1 Kings, 5 : 4, "The Lord 
my God hath given me rest on every side, so that there 
is neither adversary nor evil occurrent." In the origi- 
nal, neither Satan nor evil. I need not mention other 
places ; these are sufficient to show that the word Sa- 
tan, denoting an adversary, does occur in various places 
of the Old Testament ; and it is extremely probable to 
me, that the root Satan was introduced in the Hebrew 
and other eastern languages to denote an adversary, 
from its having been the proper name of the great ene- 
my of mankind. I know it is an opinion of Voltaire, 
that the word satan is not older than the Babylonian 
captivity : this is a mistake, for it is met with in the 
hundred and ninth psalm, which all allow to have been 
written by David, long before the captivity. Now we 
are upon this subject, permit me to recommend to your 
consideration the universality of the doctrine concern- 
ing an evil being, who, in the beginning of time, had op- 
posed himself, who still continues to oppose himself to 
the supreme source of all good. Amongst all nations, in 
all ages, this opinion prevailed, that human affairs were 
subject to the will of the gods, and regulated by their in- 
terposition. Hence has been derived whatever we have 
read of the wandering stars of t ;e Chaldeans, two of 
them beneficent and two malignant hence the Egyp- 
tian Typho and Osiris the Persian Arimanius and 
Oromasdes the Grecian celestial and infernalJove 
the Brama and the Zupay of the Indians, Peruvians, 
Mexicans the good and evil principle, by whatever 
names they may be called, of all other barbarous na- 
tions and hence the structure of the whole book of Job, 

52 WATSON'S [344 

in whatever light, of history or drama, it may be con 
sidered. Now, does it not appear reasonable to suppose 
that an opinion so ancient and so universal has arisen 
from tradition concerning the fall of our first parents 
disfigured, indeed, and obscured, as all traditions mus 
be, by many fabulous additions ? 

The Jews, you tell us, " never prayed but when they 
were in trouble." I do not believe this of the Jews; 
but that they prayed more fervently when they were 
in trouble than at other times, may be true of the JewSj 
and I apprehend is true of all nations and of all indi- 
viduals. But " the Jews never prayed for any thing 
but victory, vengeance, and riches." Read Solomon's 
prayer at the dedication of the temple, and blush fo 
your assertion illiberal and uncharitable in the ex- 
treme ! 

It appears, you observe, " to have been the custom 
of the heathens to personify both virtue and vice by 
statues and images, as is done now-a-days both by 
statuary and painting ; but it does not follow from this 
that they worshiped them any more than we do." No 
worshiped them ! What think you of the golden image 
which Nebuchadnezzar set up ? Was it not worshiped 
by the princes, the rulers, the judges, the people, the 
nations, and the languages of the Babylonian empire '. 
Not worshiped them ! What think you of the decree 
of the Roman senate for fetching the statue of the mo- 
ther of the gods from Pessinum? Was it only that 
they might admire it as a piece of workmanship ? Not 
worshiped them ! " What man is there that knoweth 
not how that the city of the Ephesians is a worshiper 
of the great goddess Diana, and of the image which 
fell down from Jupiter?" Not worshiped them! The 

345] REPLY TO PAINE. 63 

worship was universal. " Every nation made gods of 
their own, and put them in the houses of their high- 
places, which the Samaritans had made the men of 
Babylon made Succoth-benoth, and the men of Cuth 
made Nergal, and the men of Hamath made Ashima, 
and the Avites made Nibhaz and Tartak, and the Se- 
pharvites burnt their children in fire to Adrammelech 
and Anammelech, the gods of Sepharvaim." (2 Kings, 
chap. 17.) The heathens are much indebted to you for 
this curious apology for their idolatry ; for a mode of 
worship the most cruel, senseless, impure, abomina- 
ble, that can possibly disgrace the faculties of the hu- 
man mind. Had this your conceit occurred in ancient 
times, it might have saved Micha?s teraphimSj the 
golden calves of Jeroboam and of Aaron, and quite 
superseded the necessity of the second commandment. 
Heathen morality has had its advocates before you ; 
the facetious gentleman who pulled off his hat to the 
statue of Jupiter, that he might have a friend when 
heathen idolatry should again be in repute, seems to 
Lave had some foundation for his improper humor, 
some knowledge that certain men, esteeming them- 
selves great philosophers, had entered into a conspira- 
cy to abolish Christianity, some foresight of the con- 
sequences which will certainly attend their success. 
It is an error, you say, to call the Psalms the Psalms 
of David. This error was observed by St. Jerome ma- 
ny hundred years before you were born; his words 
are, " We know that they are in error who attribute 
all the Psalms to David." You, I suppose, will not 
deny that David wrote some of them. Songs are of 
various sorts ; we have hunting songs, drinking songs, 
fighting songs, love songs, foolish, wanton, wicked 

64 WATSON'S [3 

songs ; if you will have the " Psalms of David to 
nothing but a collection from different song-writers, 
you must allow that the writers of them were inspin 
by no ordinary spirit; that it is a collection incapab 
of being degraded by the name you give it; that 
greatly excels every other collection in matter and 
manner. Compare the book of Psalms with the ocl 
of Horace or Anacreon, with the hymr.s of Callim 
chus, the golden verses of Pythagoras, the choruses 
the Greek tragedians, (no contemptible compositions 
any of these,) and you will quickly see how greatly it 
surpasses them all in piety of sentiment, in sublimity 
of expression, in purity of morality, and in rational 

As you esteem the Psalms of David a song-bool 
it is consistent enough in you to esteem the Proveri 
of Solomon a jest-book: there have not come dow 
to us above eight hundred of his jests; if we had the 
whole three thousand which he wrote, our mirth 
would become extreme. Let us open the book, and 
see what kind of jests it contains: take the very first 
as a specimen : " The fear of the Lord is the begin- 
ning of knowledge ; but fools despise wisdom and 
struction." Do you perceive any jest in this? T 
fear of the Lord ! What Lord does Solomon mea 
He means the Lord who took the posterity of Ab 
ham to be his peculiar people ; who redeemed t 
people from Egyptian bondage by a miraculous 
terposition of his power ; who gave the law to M< 
ses ; who commanded the Israelites to exterminate 
the nations of Canaan. Now this Lord you will 
not fear; the jest says, you despise wisdom and 
instruction. Let us try again. "My son, hear the 

847] REPLY TO PAlNfi, 65 

instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law 
of thy mother." If your heart has been ever touch- 
ed by parental feelings you will see no jest in this* 
Once more. " My son, if sinners entice thee, con* 
sent thou not k " These are the three first proverbs 
in Solomon's " jest-book;" if you read it through, it 
may not make you merry ; I hope it will make you 
wise ; that it will teach you, at least, the beginning 
of wisdom the fear of that Lord whom Solomon 
feared. Solomon, you tell us, was witty ; jesters are 
sometimes witty : but though all the world, from the 
time of the queen of Sheba, has heard of the wisdom 
of Solomon, his wit was never heard of before. There 
is a great difference, Mr. Locke teaches us, between 
wit and judgment, and there is a greater between wit 
and wisdom. Solomon " was wiser than Ethan the 
Ezahite, and Heman, and Chalcol, and Darda, the 
sons of Mahol." These men you may think were 
jesters ; and so you may call the seven wise men of 
Greece ; but you will never convince the world that 
Solomon, who was wiser than them all, was nothing 
but a witty jester. As to the sins and debaucheries 
of Solomon, we have nothing to do with them but to 
avoid them ; and to give full credit to his experience, 
when he preaches to us his admirable sermon on the 
vanity of every thing but piety and virtue. 

Isaiah has a greater share of your abuse than any 
other writer in the Old Testament, and the reason of 
it is obvious the prophecies of Isaiah have received 
such a full and circumstantial completion, that unless 
you can persuade yourself to consider the whole book 
(a few historical sketches excepted) "as one conti- 
nued bombastical rant, full of extravagant metaphor 1 , 

66 WATSON'S [348 

\vithout application, and destitute of meaning," you 
must of necessity allow its divine authority. You 
compare the burden of Babylon, the burden of Moubj 
the burden of Damascus, and the other denunciations 
of the prophet against cities and kingdoms, to the 
story "of the knight of the burning mountain, the 
story of Cinderella, &c." I may have read thes 
stories, but I remember nothing of the subjects 
them ; I have read also Isaiah's burden of Babylon 
and I have compared it with the past and present 
state of Babylon, and the comparison has made such 
an impression on my mind, that it will never be ef- 
faced from my memory. I shall never cease to be^ 
lieve that the Eternal alone, by whom things future 
are more distinctly known than past or present things 
are to man, that the eternal God alone could have 
dictated to the prophet Isaiah the subject of the 
burden of Babylon. 

The latter part of the forty-fourth and the begin* 
ning of the forty-fifth chapter of Isaiah are, in you? 
opinion, so far from being written by Isaiah, that they 
could only have been written by some person who 
lived at least an hundred and fifty years after Isaiah 
was dead. These chapters, you go on, " are a corn* 
pliment to Cyrus, who permitted the Jews to return 
to Jerusalem from the Babylonian captivity, above 
an hundred and fifty years after the death of Isaiah.'* 
And is it for this, sir, that you accuse the church 
of audacity, and the priests of ignorance, in imposing, 
as you call it, this book upon the world as the writing 
of Isaiah? What shall be said of you, who, either de- 
signedly or ignorantly, represent one of the most clear 
and important prophecies in the Bible as an histori- 

349J REPLY to PAIK& 6? 

cal compliment, written above an hundred and fifty 
years after the death of the prophet? We contend, 
sir, that this is a prophecy and not a history; that God 
called Cyru$ by his name, declared that he should 
conquer Babylon, and described the means by which 
he should do it, above an hundred years before Cyrus 
was born, and when there was no probability of such 
an event. Porphyry could not resist the evidence of* 
Daniel's prophecies, but by saying that they were 
forged after the events predicted had taken place; 
Voltaire could not resist the evidence of the predic j 
tion of Jesus concerning the destruction of Jerusa- 
lem, but by saying that the account was written after 
Jerusalem had been destroyed; and you, at length, 
(though, for aught I know, you may have had prede- 
cessors in this presumption) unable to resist the evi- 
dence of Isaiah? s prophecies, contend that they are 
bombastical rant, without application, though the ap^ 
plication is circumstantial; and destitute of meaning, 
though the meaning is so obvious that it cannot be 
mistaken; and that one of the most remarkable of 
them is not a prophecy, but a historical compliment 
written after the event. We will not, sir, give up 
Daniel and St. Matthew to the impudent assertions 
of Porphyry and Voltaire, nor will we give up Isaiah 
to your assertion. Proof, proof is what we require, 
and not assertion; we will not relinquish our religion 
in obedience to your abusive assertion respecting the 
prophets of God. That the wonderful absurdity of 
this hypothesis may be more obvious to you, I beg 
you to consider that Cyrus was a Persian, had been 
| brought up in the religion of his country, and was 
I probably addicted to the magian superstition of two 

63 WATSON'S [350 

independent beings equal in power but different in 
principle, one the author of light and of all good, the 
other the author of darkness and all evil. Now, is it 
probable that a captive Jew, meaning to compliment 
the greatest prince in the world, should be so stupid 
as to tell the prince his religion was a lie ? k * I am the 
Lord, and there is none else: I form the light and 
create darkness* I make peace and create evil : I the 
Lord do all these things." 

But if you will persevere in believing that the pro- 
phecy concerning Cyrus was written after the event, 
peruse the burden of Babylon : was that also written 
after the event? Were the Medes then stirred up 
against Babylon? Was Babylon, the glory of the 
kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees. then over- 
thrown, and become as Sodom and Gomorrah ? Was 
it theji uninhabited ? Was it then neither fit for the 
Arabian's tent nor the shepherd's fold ? Did the wild 
beasts of the desert then lie there ? Did the wild 
beasts of the islands then cry in their desolate houses, 
and dragons in their pleasant places ? Were Nebu- 
chadnezzar and Belshazzar, the son and the grand- 
son, then cut off? Was Babylon then become a pos- 

ion of the bittern, and pools of water? Was 
then swept with the besom of destruction, so swt 
that the world knows not where to find it ? 

I am unwilling to attribute bad designs, deliberai 
wickedness to you or to any man : I cannot avoid be- 
lieving that you think you have truth on your side, 
and that you are doing service to mankind in endea- 
voring to root out what you esteem superstition. What 
I blame you for is this that you have attempted to 
lessen the authority of the Bible by ridicule more} 



351] REPLY TO PAINE. 69 

than by reason ; that you have brought forward every 
petty objection which your ingenuity could discover, 
or your industry pick up from the writings of others, 
and, without taking any notice of the answers which 
have been repeatedly given to these objections, you 
urge and enforce them as if they were new. There 
is certainly some novelty at least in your manner, for 
you go beyond all others in boldness of assertion and 
in profaneness ot argumentation ; Bolingbroke and 
Voltaire must yield the palm of scurrility to Thomas 

Permit me to state to you what would, in my opi- 
nion, have been a better mode of proceeding better 
suited to the character of an honest man, sincere in 
his endeavors to search out truth. Such a man, in 
reading the Bible, would, in the first place, examine 
whether the Bible attributed to the Supreme Being 
any attributes repugnant to holiness, truth, justice, 
goodness ; whether it represented him as subject to 
human infirmities ; whether it excluded him from the 
government of the world, or assigned the origin of 
it to chance and an eternal conflict of atoms. Find- 
ing nothing of this kind in the Bible, (for the destruc- 
tion of the Canaanites by his express command I 
have shown not to be repugnant to his moral justice,) 
he would, in the second place, consider that the Bible 
being, as to many of its parts, a very old book, and 
written by various authors and at different and dis- 
tant periods, there might probably occur some diffi- 
culties and apparent contradictions in the historical 
part of it ; he would endeavor to remove these diffi- 
culties, to reconcile these apparent contradictions, by 
the rules of such sound criticism as he would use iu 

70 WATSON'S [352 

examining the contents of any other book ; and if he 
found that most of them were of a trifling nature, 
arising from short additions inserted into the text as 
explanatory and supplemental, or from mistakes and 
omissions of transcribers, he would infer that all the 
rest were capable of being accounted for, though he 
was not able to do it ; and he would be the more will- 
ing to make this concession, from observing that 
there ran through the whole book a harmony and con- 
nection utterly inconsistent with every idea of forgery 
and deceit. He would then, in the third place, ob- 
serve that the miraculous and historical parts of this 
book were so intermixed that they could not be sepa- 
rated, and that they must either both be true, or both 
false ; and from finding that the historical part was as 
well or better authenticated than that of any other 
history, he would admit the miraculous part ; and to 
confirm himself in this belief, he would advert to the 
prophecies, well knowing that the prediction of 
things to come was as certain a proof of the Divine 
interposition as the performance of a miracle could 
be. If he should find, as he certainly would, that 
many ancient prophecies had been fulfilled in all their 
circumstances, and that some were fulfilling at this 
very day, he would not suffer a few seeming or 
real difficulties to overbalance the weight of the accu 
mulated evidence for the truth of the Bible. Such 
I presume to think, would be a proper conduct in 
those who are desirous of forming a rational and 
partial judgment on the subject of revealed religi 
To return- 
As to your observation that the book of Isaiah is 
(at least in translation) that kind of composition and 

353] REPLY TO PAINE. 71 

false taste which is properly called prose run mad, 
I have only to remark that your taste for Hebrew 
poetry, even judging of it from the translation, would 
be more correct if you would suffer yourself to be 
informed on the subject by Bishop Lowth, who tells 
you in his Prelections " that a poem translated 
literally from the Hebrew into any other language, 
whilst the same forms of the sentences remain, will 
still retain, even as far as relates to versification, much 
cf its native dignity, and a faint appearance of versi- 
fication." If this is what you mean by prose run 
mad, your observation may be admitted. 

You explain at some length your notion of the mis- 
application made by St. Matthew of the prophecy in 
Isaiah " Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a 
son." That passage has been handled largely and 
minutely by almost every commentator, and it is too 
important to be handled superficially by any one. I 
am not on the present occasion concerned to explain 
it. It is quoted by you to prove and it is the only 
instance you produce that Isaiah was " a lying pro- 
phet and an impostor." Now, I maintain that this 
very instance proves that he was a true prophet, and 
no impostor. The history of the prophecy, as deli- 
vered in the seventh chapter, is this : Rezin king of 
Syria, and Pekah king of Israel, made war upon Ahaz 
king of Judah ; not merely, or, perhaps, not at all, for 
the sake of plunder or the conquest of territory, but 
with a declared purpose of making an entire revolu- 
tion in the government of Judah, of destroying the 
royal house of David, and of placing another family 
on the throne. Their purpose is thus expressed " Let 
us go up against Judah and vex it, and let us make a 

72 WATSON'S [354 

breach therein for us, and set a king in the midst of it, 
even the son of Tabeal." Now, what did the Lord 
commission Isaiah to say to Ahaz? Did he commis- 
sion him to say, the kings shall not vex thee? No. 
The kings shall not conquer thee ? No. The kings 
shall not succeed against thee ? No. He commis- 
sioned him to say : " It (the purpose of the two kings) 
shall not stand, neither shall it come to pass." I de- 
mand, did it stand ? did it come to pass? Was any 
revolution effected ? Was the royal house of David 
dethroned and destroyed? Was Tabeal ever made 
king of Judah? No. The prophecy was perfectly 
accomplished. You say, " Instead of these two kings 
failing in their attempt against Ahaz, they succeeded ; 
Ahaz was defeated and destroyed." I deny the fact ; 
Ahaz was defeated, but was not destroyed ; and even 
the " two hundred thousand women, and sons, and 
daughters," whom you represent as carried into cap- 
tivity, were not carried into captivity ; they were made 
captives, but they were not carried into captivity ; for 
the chief men of Samaria, being admonished by a pro- 
phet, would not suffer Pekah to bring the captives into 
the land " They rose up and took the captives, and 
with the spoil clothed all that were naked among them, 
and arrayed them, and shod them, and gave them to 
eat, and to drink, and anointed them, and carried all the 
feeble of them upon asses (some humanity, you see, 
amongst those Israelites whom you every where re- 
present as barbarous brutes) and brought them to 
Jericho, the city of palm-trees, to their brethren." 
2 Chron. 28 : 15. The kings did fail in their attempt; 
their attempt was to destroy the house of David, and 
to make a revolution j but they made no revolution, 

355] REPLY TO PAINE. 73 

they did not destroy the house of David ; for Ahaz 
slept with his fathers, and Hezekiah his son, of the 
Louse of David, reigned in his stead. 


After what I conceive to be a great misrepresenta- 
tion of the character and conduct of Jeremiah, you 
bring forward an objection which Spinoza and others 
before you had much insisted upon, though it is an ob- 
jection which neither affects the genuineness nor the 
authenticity of the book of Jeremiah, any more than 
the blunder of a bookbinder, in misplacing the sheets 
of your performance, would lessen its authority. The 
objection is, that the book of Jeremiah has been put 
together in a disordered state. It is acknowledged that 
the order of time is not every where observed ; but the 
cause of the confusion is nof known. Some attribute 
it to JSaruch collecting into one volume all the seve- 
ral prophecies which Jeremiah had written, and neg- 
lecting to put them in their proper places. Others 
think that the several paits of the work were at first 
properly arranged, but that, through accident or the 
carelessness of transcribers, they were deranged. 
Others contend that there is no confusion ; that pro- 
phecy differs from history in not being subject to an 
accurate observance of time and order. But, leaving 
this matter to be settled by critical discussion, let us 
come to a matter of greater importance to your charge 
against Jeremiah for his duplicity, and for his false 
prediction. First, as to his duplicity. 

Jeremiah, on account of his having boldly predicted 
the destruction of Jerusalem, had been thrust into a 

74 WATSON'S [356 

miry dungeon by the princes of Judah who sought his 
life ; there he would have perished had not one of the 
eunuchs taken compassion on him and petitioned king 
Zedekiah in his favor, saying, " These men (the 
princes) have done evil in all that they have done to 
Jeremiah the prophet, (no small testimony this of the 
probity of the prophet's character,) whom they have 
cast into the dungeon, and he is like to die for hun- 
ger." On this representation Jeremiah was taken out 
of the dungeon by an order from the king, who soon 
afterwards sent privately for him, and desired him to 
conceal nothing from him, binding himself by an oath, 
that, whatever might be the nature of his prophecy, he 
would not put him to death, or deliver him into the 
hands of the princes who sought his life. Jeremiah de- 
livered to him the purpose of God respecting the fate 
of Jerusalem. The conference being ended, the king, 
anxious to perform his oath to preserve the life of the 
prophet, dismissed him, saying, " Let no man know of 
these words, and thou shalt not die. But if the princes 
hear that I have talked with thee, and they come unto 
thee, and say unto thee, Declare unto us now what 
thou hast said unto the king, hide it not from us, and 
we will not put thee to death ; also what the king said 
unto thee : then thou shalt say unto them, I presented 
my supplication before the king, that he would no 
cause me to return to Jonathan's house to die there 
Then came all the princes unto Jeremiah and aske 
him. and he told them according to all these words 
that the king had commanded." Thus, you remark 
" this man of God, as he is called, could tell a lie, 
very strongly prevaricate ; for certainly he did not j 
to Zedekiah to make his supplication, neither did 

357] REPLY TO PAINE. 75 

make it." It is not said that he told the princes he 
went to make his supplication, but that he presented 
it. Now, it is said in the preceding chapter that he did 
make the supplication, and it is probable that in this 
conference he renewed it ; but be that as it may, I con- 
tend that Jeremiah was not guilty of duplicity, or, in 
more intelligible terms, that he did not violate any law 
of nature or of civil society, in what he did on this 
occasion. He told the truth, in part, to save his life ; 
and he was under no obligation to tell the whole to 
men who were certainly his enemies, and no good 
subjects to his king. " In a matter (says Puffendorf ) 
which I am not obliged to declare to another, if I can- 
not, with safety, conceal the whole, I may fairly dis- 
cover no more than a part." Was Jeremiah under any 
obligation to declare to the princes what had passed 
in his conference with the king ? You may as well say 
that the house of lords has a right to compel privy 
counsellors to reveal the king's secrets. The king can- 
not justly require a privy counsellor to tell a lie for 
him, but he may require him not to divulge his coun- 
sels to those who have no right to know them. Now 
for the false.prediction I will give the description of 
it in your own words. 

In the 34th chapter is a prophecy of Jeremiah to Ze- 
dekiah, in these words, ver. 2 : " Thus saith the Lord, 
Behold, I will give this city into the hands of the king 
of Babylon, and will burn it with fire ; and thou shalt 
not escape out of his hand, but thou shalt surely be 
taken and delivered into his hand; and thine eyes 
shall behold the eyes of the king of Babylon, and he 
shall speak with thee mouth to mouth, and thou shalt 
:j go to Babylon. Yet hear the word of the Lord, O 

76 WATSON'S [35S 

Zedekiah, kingofJudah, thussaith the Lord, Thou 
shall not die by the sword, but thou shalt die in 
peace; and with the burnings of thy fathers, the 
former kings that were before thee, so shall they 
burn odors for thee, and will lament thee, saying. 
Ah ! Lord ! for I have pronounced the word, saitfi 
the Lord/'' 

" Now, instead of Zedekiah beholding the eyes of 
the king of Babylon, and speaking with him mouth to 
mouth, and dying in peace, and with the burning of 
odors, as at the funeral of his fathers, (as Jeremiah 
had declared the Lord himself had pronounced,) the 
reverse, according to the 52d chapter, was the case ; it 
is there stated, verse 10, ' that the king of Babylon 
slew the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes; then he 
put out the eyes of Zedekiah, and bound him in chains, 
and carried him to Babylon, and put him in prison till 
the day of his death.' What can we say of these pro- 
phets, but that they are impostors and liars ?" I can 
say this, that the prophecy you have produced was ful- 
filled in all its parts : and what then shall be said of 
those who call Jeremiah a liar and an impostor? Here 
then we are fairly at issue you affirm that the pro- 
phecy was not fulfilled, and I affirm that it was ful- 
filled in all its parts. " I will give this city into the 
hands of the king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with 
fire :" so says the prophet ; what says the history ? 
Ci They (the forces of the king of Babylon) burnt the 
house of God, and brake down the walls of Jerusalem, 
and burnt all the places thereof with fire." 2 Chron. 
36 : 19. " Thou shalt not escape out of his hand, but 
shalt surely be taken and delivered into his hand : :) 
so says the prophet ; what says the history ? " Th 

559] REPLY TO PAINE. 77 

men of war fled by night, and the king went the way 
towards the plain ; and the army of the Chaldees pur- 
sued after the king, and overtook him in the plains of 
Jericho ; and all his army were scattered from him ; so 
they took the king and brought him up to the king of 
Babylon, to Riblah." 2 Kings, 25 : 5. The prophet 
goes on, " Thine eyes shall behold the eyes of the 
king of Babylon, and he shall speak with thee mouth 
to mouth." No pleasant circumstance this to Zedekiah, 
who had provoked the king of Babylon by revolting 
from him ! The history says, " The king of Babylon 
gave judgment upon Zedekiah," or, as it is more lite- 
rally rendered from the Hebrew, " Spake judgment 
with him at Riblah." The prophet concludes this part 
with, " And thou shalt go to Babylon ;" the history 
says, " The king of Babylon bound him in chains, and 
carried him to Babylon, and put him in prison till the 
day of his death." Jer, 52 : 11. " Thou shalt not die 
by the sword." He did not die by the sword, he did 
not fall in battle. " But thou shalt die in peace." He 
did die in peace, he neither expired on the rack or on 
the scaffold ; was neither strangled nor poisoned ; no 
unusual fate of captive kings ! He died peaceably in 
his bed, though that bed was in a prison. "And with 
the burnings of thy fathers shall they burn odors for 
ithee." I cannot prove from the history that this part 
of the prophecy was accomplished, nor can you prove 
that it was not. The probability is, that it was ac- 
pomplished ; and I have two reasons on which I ground 
this probability. Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and 
jAbednego, to say nothing of other Jews, were men of 
great authority in the court of the king of Babylon, be- 
fore and after the commencement of the imprisonment 

78 WATSON^ [360 

of Zedekiah ; and Daniel continued in power til) the? 
subversion of the kingdom of Babylon by Cyras. Now, 
it seems to me to be very probable that Daniel and 
(he other great men of the Jews would both hare in- 
clination to request, and influence enough with the 
king of Babylon to obtain, permission to bury their de- 
ceased prince Zedekiah after the manner of his fathers. 
But if there had been no Jews at Babylon of conse- 
quence enough to make such a request, still it is pro* 
bable that the king of Babylon would have ordered the 
Jews to bury and lament their departed prince afief 
the manner of their country. Monarchs, like other men, 
are conscious of the instability of human condition J 
and when the pomp of war has ceased, when the inso- 
lence of conquest is abated, and the fury of resentment 
subsided, they seldom fail to revere royalty even in its 
ruins ; and grant, without reluctance, proper obsequies 
to the remains of captive kings. 

You profess to have been particular in treating of 
the books ascribed to Isaiah and Jeremiah. Parties 
lar! in what? You have particularized two or three 
passages, which you have endeavored to represent as 
objectionable, and which I hope have been shown, to 
the reader's satisfaction, to be not justly liable to y 
censure ; and you have passed over all the other pai 
of these books without notice. Had you been pa; 
cular in your examination, you would have found cau: 
to admire the probity and the intrepidity of the charac- 
ters of the authors of them ; you would have met with 
many instances of sublime composition, and, what is 
of more consequence, with many instances of proph 
tical veracity. Particularities of these kinds you ha 
wholly overlooked. I cannot account for this j I ha' 


361] REPLY TO PAINE. 79 

no right, no inclination to call you a dishonest man ; 
am I justified in considering you as a man not alto- 
gether destitute of ingenuity, but so entirely under 
the dominion of prejudice in every thing respecting 
the Bible, that, like a corrupted judge, previously de- 
termined to give sentence on one side, you are negli- 
gent in the examination of the truth ? 

You proceed to the rest of the prophets, and you 
take them collectively, carefully however selecting 
for your observations such peculiarities as are best 
calculated to render, if possible, the prophets odious 
or ridiculous in the eyes of your readers. You con- 
found prophets with poets and musicians : I would 
distinguish them thus : many prophets were poets 
and musicians, but all poets and musicians were not 
prophets. Prophecies were often delivered in poetic 
language and measure ; but flights and metaphors of 
the Jewish poets have not, as you affirm, been foolishly 
erected into what are now called prophecies ; they 
.are now called, and have always been called, prophe- 
cies ; because they were real predictions, some of 
which have received, some are now receiving, and all 
will receive their full accomplishment. 

That there were false prophets^ witches, necroman- 
'cers, conjurers, fortune-tellers among the Jews, no 
person will attempt to deny ; no nation, barbarous or 
civilized, has been without them ; but when you 
would degrade the prophets of the Old Testament to 
a level with these conjuring, dreaming, strolling gen- 
try ; when you would represent them as spending 
iheir lives in fortune-telling, casting nativities, pre- 
dicting riches, fortunate or unfortunate marriages, 
conjuring for lost goods, &c. I must be allowed to 

80 WATSON'S [362 

say that you wholly mistake their office and misre- 
present their character : their office was to convey to 
the children of Israel the commands, the promises, 
the threatenings of Almighty God j and their charac- 
ter was that of men sustaining, with fortitude, perse- 
cution in the discharge of their duty. There wen 
false prophets in abundance amongst the Jews ; and if 
you oppose these to the true prophets, and call them 
both party prophets, you have the liberty of doing so, 
but you will not thereby confound the distinction be- 
tween truth and falsehood. False prophets are spo- 
ken of with detestation in many parts of Scripture, 
particularly by Jeremiah, who accuses them of pro- 
phecying lies in the name of the Lord, saying, " I have 
dreamed, I have dreamed. Behold, I am against the 
prophets, saith the Lord, that use their tongues and 
say, He saith; that prophecy false dreams, and cause 
my people to err by their lies and by their lightness." 
Jeremiah cautions his countrymen against giving 
credit to their prophets, to their diviners, to their 
dreamers, to their enchanters, to their sorcerers, which 
speak unto you, saying, " Ye shall not serve the king 
of Babylon." You cannot think more contemptibly 
of these gentry than they were thought of by the true 
prophets at the time they lived ; but, as Jeremiah says 
on this subject, " what is the chaff to the wheat ? JI 
what are the false prophets to the true ones ? Every 
thing good is liable to abuse ; but who argues against 
the use of a thing from the abuse of it ? against phy- 
sicians, because there are pretenders to physic? Was 
Isaiah a fortune-teller predicting riches, when he said 
to king Hezekiah. "Behold, the days come that all 
that is in thine house, and that which fby fathers have 

363] REPLY TO PAINE. 8^ 

laid up in store until this day, shall be carried to 
Babylon : nothing shall be left, saith the Lord. And 
of thy sons that shall issue from thee, which thou shalt 
beget, shall they take away, and they shall be eunuchs 
in the palace of the king of Babylon." Fortune-tellers 
generally predict good luck to their simple customers, 
that they may make something by their trade ; but 
Isaiah predicts to a monarch desolation of his coun- 
try and ruin of his family. This prophecy was spo- 
ken in the year before Christ 713; and, above a 
hundred years afterwards, it was accomplished ; when 
Nebuchadnezzar took Jerusalem, and carried out 
thence all the treasures of the house of the Lord, and 
the treasures of the king's house, (2 Kings, 24 : 13,) 
and when he commanded the master of the eunuchs 
(Dan. 1:3,) that he should take certain of the children 
of Israel, and of the king's seed, and of the princes, 
and educate them for three years, till they were able 
to stand before the king. 

Jehoram king of Israel, Jehoshaphat king of Judah, 
and the king of Edom, going with their armies to 
make war on the king of Moab, came into a place 
where there was no water either for their men or cat- 
tle. In this distress they waited upon Elisha (a high 
honor for one of your conjurers) by the advice of Je- 
hoshaphat, who knew that the word of the Lord was 
with him. The prophet, on seeing Jehoram, an idol- 
atrous prince, who had revolted from the worship of 
the true God, come to consult him, said to him, " Get 
thee to the prophets of thy father and the prophets of 
thy mother." This, you think, shows Elisha to have 
been a party prophet, full of venom and vulgarity. It 
shows him to have been a man of great courage, who 

82 WATSON'S '361 

respected the dignity of his own character, the sacred- 
ness of his office as a prophet of G^d, whose duty it 
was to reprove the wickedness of kings, as of other 
men. He ordered them to make the valley where 
they were, full of ditches. This, you say, "every 
countryman could have told, that the way to get wa- 
ter was to dig for it." But this is not a true repre- 
sentation of the case : the ditches were not dug that 
water might be got by digging for it, but that they 
might hold the water when it should miraculously 
come, " without wind or rain," from another country ; 
and it did come " from the way of Edom, and the 
country was filled with water." As to Elisha's curs- 
ing the little children who had mocked him, and their 
destruction in consequence of his imprecation, the 
whole story must be taken together. The provoca- 
tion he received is, by some, considered as an insult 
offered to him, not as a man, but as a prophet > and 
that the persons who offered it were not what we un- 
derstand by little children, but grown up youths ; the 
term child being applied, in the Hebrew language, to 
grown up persons. Be this as it may, the cursing 
was the act of the prophet ; had it been a sin, it would 
not have been followed by a miraculous destruction 
of the offenders ; for this was the act of God, who 
best knows who deserve punishment. What effect 
such a signal judgment had on the idolatrous inhabi- 
tants of the land, is nowhere suid ; but it is probable 
it was not without a good effect. 

Ezekiel and Daniel lived during the Babylonian 
captivity; you allow their writings to be genuine. In 
this you differ from some of the greatest adversaries 
rxf Christianity ; and, in my opinion, cut up, by this 

365] REPLY TO PAINE. 83 

concession, the very root of your whole performance. 
It is next to an impossibility for any man, who ad- 
mits the book of Daniel to be a genuine book, and 
who examines that book with intelligence and impar- 
tiality, to refuse his assent to the truth of Christi- 
anity. As to your saying that the interpretations 
which commentators and priests have made of these 
oooks only show the fraud, or the extreme folly to 
which credulity and priestcraft can go, I consider it 
as nothing but a proof of the extreme folly or fraud 
to which prejudice and infidelity can carry a minute 
philosopher. You profess a fondness for science ; I 
will refer you to a scientific man, who was neither a 
commentator nor a priest to Ferguson. In a tract 
entitled " The year of our Savior's crucifixion ascer- 
tained; and the darkness, at the time of his cruci- 
fixion proved to be supernatural," this real philosopher 
interprets the remarkable prophecy in the 9th chapter 
of Daniel, and concludes his dissertation in the follow- 
ing words : " Thus we have an astronomical demon- 
stration of the truth of this ancient prophecy, seeing 
that the prophetic year of the Messiah's being cut off 
was the very same with the astronomical." I have 
somewhere read an account of a solemn disputation 
which was held at Venice, in the last century, be- 
tween a Jew and a Christian : the Christian strongly 
argued from Daniel's prophecy of the seventy weeks, 
that Jesus was the Messiah whom the Jews had long 
expected, from the predictions of their prophets ; the 
learned Rabbi who presided at this disputation, was 
so forcibly struck by the argument, that he put an end 
to the business by saying, ' ( Let us shut up our Bi- 
bles ; for if we proceed in the examination of this pro- 

84 WATSON'S [3 

phecy, it will make us all become Christians." Was 
it a similar apprehension which deterred you from so 
much as opening the book of Daniel ? You have not 
produced from it one exceptionable passage. I hope 
you will read that book with attention, with intelli- 
gence, and with an unbiassed mind follow the advice 
of our Savior when he quoted this prophecy, " Lei 
him that readeth understand," and I shall not despair 
of your conversion from deism to Christianity. 

In order to discredit the authority of the books 
which you allow to be genuine, you form a strange 
and prodigious hypothesis concerning Ezekiel and 
Daniel, for which there is no manner of foundation 
either in history or probability. You suppose these 
two men to have had no dreams, no visions, no reve- 
lations from God Almighty ; but to have pretended to 
these things ; and, under that disguise, to have carried 
on an enigmatical correspondence relative to the re- 
covery of their country from the Babylonian yoke. 
That any man in his senses should frame or adopt 
such an hypothesis, and should have so little regard 
to his own reputation as an impartial inquirer after 
truth, so little respect for the understanding of his 
readers, as to obtrude it on the world, would have ap- 
peared an incredible circumstance, had not you made 
it a fact. 

You quote a passage from Ezekiel: in the 29th 
chapter, ver. 11, speaking of Egypt, it is said, "No 
foot of man shall pass through it, nor foot of beast 
shall pass through it, neither shall it be inhabits 
forty years :" this, you say, " never came to pass, and 
consequently it is false, as all the books I have already 
reviewed are." Now that this did come to pass, we 

367] REPLY TO PAINE. 85 

have, as Bishop Newton observes, " the testimonies 
of Megasthenes and Berosus, two heathen historians, 
who lived about 300 years before Christ ; one of whom 
affirms expressly that Nebuchadnezzar conquered the 
greater part of Africa ; and the other affirms it in ef- 
fect, in saying, that when Nebuchadnezzar heard of 
the death of his father, having settled his affairs in 
Egypt, and committed the captives whom he took in 
Egypt to the care of some of his friends to bring them 
after him, he hasted directly to Babylon." And if we 
had been possessed of no testimony in support of the 
prophecy, it would have been a hasty conclusion that 
the prophecy never came to pass ; the history of Egypt, 
at so remote a period, being no where accurately and 
circumstantially related. I admit that no period car. 
be pointed out, from the age of Ezekiel to the present, 
in which there was no foot of man or beast to be seen 
for forty years in all Egypt ; but some think that only 
a part of Egypt is here spoken of; and surely you do 
not expect a literal accomplishment of a hyperbolical 
expression, denoting great desolation ; importing that 
the trade of Egypt, which was carried on then, as at 
present, by caravans, by the foot of man and beast, 
should be annihilated. Had you taken the trouble to 
have looked a little further into the book from which 
you have made your quotation, you would have there 
seen a prophecy delivered above two thousand years 
ago, and which has been fulfilling from that time to 
this : " Egypt shall be the basest of the kingdoms, nei 
ther shall it exalt itself any more above the nations 
there shall be no more a prince of the land of Egypt." 
This you may call a dream, a vision, a lie : I esteem 
it a wonderful prophecy ; for " as is the prophecy, so 

86 WATSON'S [363 

has been the event. Egypt was conquered by the 
Babylonians ; and after the Babylonians, by the Per- 
sians ; and after the Persians it became subject to the 
Macedonians ; and after the Macedonians, to the Ro- 
mans ; and after the Romans, to the Saracens; and 
then to the Mamelukes ; and is now a. province of the 
Turkish empire." 

Suffer me to produce to you from this author, not an 
enigmatical letter to Daniel respecting the recovery 
of Jerusalem from the hands of the king of Babylon, 
but an enigmatical prophecy concerning Zedekiah the 
king of Jerusalem, before it was taken by the Chal- 
deans : " I will bring him (Zedekiah) to Babylon, to 
the land of the Chaldeans ; yet he shall not sec it, 
though he shall die there." How ! not see Babylon, 
when he should die there ? How, moreover, is this 
consistent, you may ask, with what Jeremiah had 
foretold that Zedekiah should see the eyes of the 
king of Babylon? This darkness of expression, and 
apparent contradiction between the two prophets, in 
duced Zedekiah (as Josephus informs us) to give no 
credit to either of them ; yet he unhappily experience 
(and the fact is worthy of your observation) the trut 
of them both. He saw the eyes of the king of Baby 
Ion, not at Babylon, but at Riblah ; his eyes wer 
there put out ; and he was carried to Babylon, yet 
saw it not ; and thus were the predictions of hot] 
the prophets verified, and the enigma of Ezekial ex 

As to your wonderful discovery that the prophe 
of Jonah is a book of some Gentile, " and that it I 
been written as a fable, to expose the nonsense an 
to satirize the vicious and malignant character of i 

369] REPLY TO PAINE. 87 

Bible prophet, or a predicting priest," I shall put it 
on the same shelf with your hypothesis concerning 
the conspiracy of Daniel and Ezekiel, and shall not 
say another word about it. 

You conclude your objections to the Old Testa- 
ment in a triumphant style ; an angry opponent would 
say, in a style of extreme arrogance and sottish self- 
sufficiency. " I have gone," you say, " through the 
Bible (mistaking here, as mother places, the Old Tes- 
tament for the Bible) as a man would go through 
a wood, with an ax on his shoulders, and fell trees : 
here they lie ; and the priests, if they can, may 
replant them. They may, perhaps, stick them in the 
ground, but they will never grow." And is it pos- 
sible that you think so highly of your performance 
as to believe that you have thereby demolished the 
authority of a book which Newton himself esteemed 
the most authentic of all histories ; which, by its 
celestial light illumines the darkest ages of antiquity ; 
which is the touchstone whereby we are enabled to 
distinguish between true and fabulous theology, be- 
tween the God of Israel, holy, just, and good, and 
the impure rabble of heathen Baalim ; which has been 
thought, by competent judges, to have afforded matter 
for the laws of Solon, and a foundation for the philoso- 
phy of Plato ; which has been illustrated by the labor 
of learning in all ages and countries ; and been admir- 
ed and venerated for its piety, its sublimity, its vera- 
city, by all who were able to read and understand it ? 
No, sir ; you have gone indeed through the wood, 
with the best intention in the world to cut it down ; 
but you have merely busied yourself in exposing to 
jvulgar contempt a few unsightly shrubs, which good 

88 WATSON'S [270 

men had wisely concealed from public view ; you 
have entangled yourself in thickets of thorns and 
briars ; you have lost, your way on the mountains of 
Lebanon ; the goodly cedar trees whereof, lamenting 
the madness and pitying the blindness of your rage 
against them, have scorned the blunt edge and the 
base temper of your ax, and laughed, unhurt, at the 
feebleness of your strokes. 

In plain language, you have gone through the Old 
Testament hunting after difficulties ; and you have 
found some real ones ; these you have endeavored to 
magnify into insurmountable objections to the autho- 
rity of the whole book. When it is considered that 
the Old Testament is composed of several books, 
written by different authors and at different periods, 
from Moses to Malachi, comprising an abstracted his- 
tory of a particular nation for above a thousand years, 
I think the real difficulties which occur in it are much 
fewer and of much less importance than could rea- 
sonably have been expected. Apparent difficulties* 
you have represented as real ones, without hinting at 
the manner in which they have been explained. You 
have ridiculed things held most sacred, and calumni- 
ated characters esteemed most venerable ; you hav 
excited the scoffs of the profane, increased the seep 
ticism of the doubtful, shaken the faith of the UB 
learned, suggested cavils to the " disputers of this 
world," and perplexed the minds of honest men wh 
wish to worship the God of their fathers in sincerity 
and truth. This and more you have done in goin 
through the Old Testament ; but you have not 
much as glanced at the great design of the whole, at th 
harmony and mutual dependance of the several parts 

3711 REPLY T . p^ 

You have said nothing of the wisdom of God in se 
lecting a particular people from the rest of mankind 
not for their own sakes, hut that they might witness 
to the whole world, in successive ages, his existence 
and attributes ; that they might be an instrument of 
subverting idolatry, and of declaring the name of the 
God of Israel throughout the whole earth. It was 
through this nation that the Egyptians saw the won- 
ders of God ; that the Canaanites (whom wickedness 
had made a reproach to human nature) felt his judg- 
ments; that the Babylonians issued their decrees, 
" that none should dare to speak amiss of the God of 
Israel ; that all should fear and tremble before him ;'* 
and it is through them that you and I, and all the 
world, are not at this day worshipers of idols, You 
have said nothing of the goodness of God in promis- 
ing that, through the seed of Abraham, all the nations 
of the earth were to be blessed ; that the desire of all 
nations, the blessing of Abraham to the Gentiles, 
should come. You have passed by all the prophecies 
respecting the coming of the Messiah: though they 
absolutely fixed the time of his coming, and of his be- 
ing cut off; described his office, character, condition, 
sufferings, and death, in so circumstantial a manner 
that we cannot but be astonished at the accuracy of 
their completion in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. 
You have neglected noticing the testimony of the 
whole Jewish nation to the truth both of the natural 
and miraculous facts recorded in the Old Testament. 
That we may better judge of the weight of this testi- 
mony, let us suppose that God should now manifest 
himself to us, as we contend he did to the Israelites 
m Egypt, in the desert, and in the land of Canaan 

90 WATSON'S [379 

and that he should continue these manifestations of 
himself to our posterity for a thousand years or more, 
punishing or rewarding them according as they diso- 
beyed or obeyed his commands ; what would you ex- 
pect would be the issue ? You would expect that our 
posterity would, in a remote period of time, adhere to 
their God, and maintain, against all opponents, the 
truth of the books in which the dispensations of God 
to us and to our successors had been recorded. They 
would not yield to the objections of men, who. not hav- 
ing experienced the same divine government, should, 
for want of such experience, refuse assent to their tes- 
timony. No. They would be to the then surround- 
ing nations, what the Jews are to us, witnesses of the 
existence and of the moral government of God. 


" The New Testament, they tell us, is founded upon 
the prophecies of the Old ; if so, it must follow the 
fate of its foundation." Thus you open your attack 
upon the New Testament; and I agree with you. t 
the New Testament must follow the fate of the Ol 
and that fate is to remain unimpaired by such efforts 
as you have made against it. The New Testament, 
however, is not founded solely on the prophecies of 
the Old. If a heathen from Athens or Rome, who 
had never heard of the prophecies of the Old Testa- 
ment, had been an eye-witness of the miracles ot 
Jesus, he would have made the same conclusion that 
the Jew Nicodemus did: " Rabbi, we know that thou 
art a teacher come from God ; for no man can do these 
miracles that thou doest, except God be with him." 

373] REPLY TO PAINE* 91 

Our Savior tells the Jews, " Had ye believed Moses, 
ye would have believed me ; for he wrote of me j" and 
he bids them search the Scriptures, for they testified of 
him. But, notwithstanding this appeal to the prophe- 
cies of the Old Testament, Jesus said to the Jews, 
" Though ye believe not me, believe the works " 
" believe me for the very works' sake." " If I had 
not done among them the works which none other 
man did, they had not had sin." These are sufficient 
proofs that the truth of Christ's mission was not even 
to the Jews, much less to the Gentiles, founded solely 
on the truth of the prophecies of the Old Testament. 
So that if you could prove some of these prophecies 
to have been misapplied, and not completed in the per- 
son of Jesus, the truth of the Christian religion would 
not thereby be overturned. That Jesus of Nazareth 
was the person in whom all the prophecies, direct and 
typical, in the Old Testament, respecting the Messiah, 
were fulfilled, is a proposition founded on those pro- 
phecies, and to be proved by comparing them with 
the history of his life. That Jesus was a prophet 
sent from God, is one proposition ; that Jesus was the 
prophet, the Messiah, is another ; and though he cer- 
tainly was both a prophet and the prophet, yet the 
foundations of the proof of these propositions are 
separate and distinct. 

The mere existence " of such a woman as Mary, 
and of such a man as Joseph, and Jesus," is, you say, 
a matter of indifference, about which there is no 
ground either to believe or to disbelieve. Belief is 
different from knowledge, with which you here seem 
to confound it. We know that the whole is greater 
than its parts and we know that all the angles in 

[374 , 

the same segment of a circle are equal to each other 
we have intuition and demonstration as grounds of 
this knowledge ; but is there no ground for belief of 
past or future existence? Is there no ground for be- 
lieving that the sun will exist to-morrow, and that 
your father existed before you ? You condescend, 
however, to think it probable that there were such per- 
sons as Mary, Joseph, and Jesus ; and without troubling 
yourself about their existence or non-exisience, assum- 
ing, as it were, for the sake of argument, but without 
positively granting their existence, you proceed to in- 
form us "that it is the fable of Jesus Christ, as told 
in the New Testament, and the wild and visionary 
doctrine raised thereon," against which you contend. 
You will not repute it a fable, that there was such 
a man as Jesus Christ ; that he lived in Judea near 
eighteen hundred years ago ; that he went about do- 
ing good, and preaching, not only in the villages of 
Galilee, but in the city of Jerusalem ; that he had 
several followers, who constantly attended him ; that 
he was put to death by Pontius Pilate ; that his dis 
ciples were numerous a few years after his death, not 
only in Judea, but in Rome, the capital of the world, 
and in every province of the Roman empire ; that a par- 
ticular day has been observed in a religious manner 
by all his followers, in commemoration of a real or 
supposed resurrection ; and that the constant celebra- 
tion of baptism, and of the Lord's supper, may be 
traced back from the present time to him, as the au- 
thor of those institutions. These things constitute 
I suppose, no part of your fable ; and if these thing 
be facts, they will, when maturely considered, drav 
after them so many other things related in the Ncv 

375] REPLY TO PAINE. 93 

Testament concerning Jesus, that there will be left 
for your fable but very scanty materials, which will re- 
tjuire great fertility of invention before you will dress 
them up into any form which will not disgust eton 
a superficial observer. 

The miraculous conception you esteem a fable, and 
in your mind it is an obscene fable. Impure, indeed, 
must that man's imagination be, who can discover 
any obscenity in the angel's declaration to Mary, 
" The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the 
power of the Highest shall overshadow thee : there- 
fore that Holy Thing which shall be born of thee, 
shall be called the Son of God." I wonder you do 
not find obscenity in Genesis, where it is said, " The 
Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters," 
and brought order out of confusion, a world out of 
chaos, by his fostering influence. As to the Chris- 
tian faith being built upon the heathen mythology, 
there is no ground whatever for the assertion : there 
would have been some for saying that much of the 
heathen mythology was built upon the events record- 
ed in the Old Testament. 

You come now to a demonstration, or which amounts 
to the same thing, to a proposition which cannot, you 
say, be controverted. First, " That the agreement of 
all the parts of a story does not prove that story to be 
true, because the parts may agree, and the whole may 
be false. Secondly, That the disagreement of the- 
parts of a story proves that the whole cannot be true. 
The agreement does not prove truth, but the disagree- 
ment proves falsehood positively." Great use, I per- 
ceive, is to be made of this proposition. You will par- 
don my unskillfulness in dialectics, if I presume to con- 

94 WATSON'S [376 

trovert the troth of this abstract proposition, as applied 
to any purpose in life. The agreement of the parts of 
a story implies that the story has been told by at least 
two persons, (the life of Doctor Johnson, for instance, 
by Sir John Hawkins and Mr. Boswell.) Now I thinl* 
it scarcely possible for even two persons, and the diffi- 
culty is increased if there are more than two, to write 
the history of the life of any one of their acquaintance 
without there being a considerable difference between 
them with respect to the number and order 'of the in 
cidents of his life. Some things will be omitted by 
one, and mentioned by the other ; some things will be 
briefly touched by one, and the same things circum- 
stantially detailed by the other ; the same things which 
are mentioned in the same way by them both, may not 
be mentioned as having happened exactly at the same 
point of time, with other possible and probable differ 
ences. But these real or apparent difficulties in mi- 
nute circumstances, will not invalidate their testimony 
as to the material transactions of his life, much les 
will they render the whole of it a fable. If several in 
dependent witnesses, of fair character, should agree iD 
all the parts of a story, (in testifying, for instance, that 
a murder or a robbery was committed at a particula 
time, in a particular place, and by a certain individual,' 
every court of justice in the world would admit th 
fact, notwithstanding the abstract possibility of th 
whole being false. Again, if several honest men should 
agree in saying that they saw the king of France be- 
lieaded, though they should disagree as to the figure of 
the guillotine or the size of his executioner, as to the 
king's hands being bound or loose, as to his being com- 
posed or agitated in ascending the scaffold, yet every 


court of justice in the world would think that such 
a difference respecting the circumstances of the fact did 
not invalidate the evidence respecting the fact itself. 
When you speak of the whole of a story, you cannot 
mean every particular circumstance connected with 
the story, but not essential to it ; you must mean the 
pith and marrow of the story ; for it would be impos- 
sible to establish the truth of any fact, (of Admirals 
Byng or Keppel, for example, having neglected or not 
neglected their duty,) if a disagreement in the evidence 
of witnesses, in minute points, should be considered 
as annihilating the weight of their evidence in points 
of importance. In a word, the relation of a fact differs 
essentially from the demonstration of a theorem. If 
one step is left out, one link in the chain of ideas con- 
stituting a demonstration is omitted, the conclusion 
will be destroyed ; but a fact may be established, not- 
withstanding the disagreement of the witnesses in cer- 
tain trifling particulars of their evidence respecting it. 
You apply your incontrovertible proposition to the 
genealogies of Christ given by Matthew and Luke 
jthere is a disagreement between them ; therefore, you 
isay, " if Matthew speak truth. Luke speaks falsehood ; 
and if Luke speak truth, Matthew speaks falsehood ; 
;;and thence there is no authority for believing either; 
and if they cannot be believed even in the very first 
/thing they say and set out to prove, they are not enti- 
tled to be believed in any thing they say afterwards." 
. I cannot admit either your premises or your conclu- 
Usion : not your conclusion ; because two authors, who 
Idiffer in tracing back the pedigree of an individual for 
jtabove a thousand years, cannot, on that account, be 
*|esteemed incompetent to bear testimony to the trans 

96 WATSON'S [378 

actions of his life, unless an intention to falsify could 
be proved against them. If two Welsh historians should 
at this time write the life of any remarkable man oi 
their country who had been dead twenty or thirty years, 
and should, through different branches of their genea- 
logical tree, carry up the pedigree to Cadwallon, would 
they, on account of that difference, be discredited in 
every thing they said? Might it not be believed that 
they gave the pedigree as they had found it recorded 
in different instruments, but without the least inten- 
tion to write a falsehood. I cannot admit your premises 
because Matthew speaks truth, and Luke speaks tru 
though they do not speak the same truth; Matthe 
giving the genealogy of Joseph, the reputed father 
Jesus, and Luke giving the genealogy of Mary, the rea 
mother of Jesus. If you will not admit this, other ex- 
planations of the difficulty might be given ; but I hold 
it sufficient to say, that the authors had no design to 
deceive the reader; that they took their accounts from 
the public registers, which were carefully kept ; and 
that, had they been fabricators of these genealogies, 
they would have been exposed at the time to instant 
detection ; and the certainty of that detection would 
have prevented them from making the attempt to im- 
pose a false genealogy on the Jewish nation. 

But that you may effectually overthrow the credit 
of these genealogies, you make the following calcula- 
tion : " From the birth of David to the birth of Christ 
is upwards of 1080 years ; and as there were but 27 full 
generations, to find the average age of each person 
mentioned in St. Matthew's list at the time his fin 
son was born, it is only necessary to divide 1080 
27, which gives 40 years for each person. As the li 


379] REPLY TO PAINE. 97 

time of man was then but of the same extent it is now, 
it is absurdity to suppose that 27 generations should 
all be old bachelors before they married. So far from 
this genealogy being a solemn truth, it is not even a 
reasonable lie." This argument assumes the appear- 
ance of arithmetical accuracy, and the conclusion is 
in a style which even its truth would not excuse ; yet 
the argument is good for nothing and the conclusion 
is not true. You have read the Bible with some atten- 
tion, and you are extremely liberal in imputing to it 
lies and absurdities : read it over again, especially the 
books of the Chronicles, and you will there find, that, 
in the genealogical list of St. Matthew, three genera- 
tions are omitted between Joram and Ozias ; Joram was 
the father of Azariah, Azariah of Joash, Joash of Ama- 
ziah, and Amaziah of Ozias. I inquire not in this place 
whence this omission proceeded ; whether it is to be 
attributed to an error in the genealogical tables from 
whence Matthew took his account, or to a corruption 
of the text of the evangelist ; still it is an omission. 
Now, if you will add these three generations to the 
twenty-seven you mention, and divide one thousand 
and eighty by thirty, you will find the average age 
when these Jews had each of them their first son born 
was thirty-six. They married sooner than they ought 
to have done according to Aristotle, who fixes thirty- 
seven as the most proper age when a man should 
marry. Nor was it necessary that they should have 
been old bachelors, though each of them had not a son 
to succeed him till he was thirty-six ; they might have 
been married at twenty, without having a son till they 
were forty. You assume in your argument, that the 
firstborn son succeeded the father in the list; this is 

98 WATSON'S [380 

not true. Solomon succeeded David, yet David had 
at least six sons who were grown to manhood before 
Solomon was born ; and Rehoboam had at least three 
sons before he had Abia, ( Abijah,) who succeeded him. 
It is needless to cite more instances to this purpose; 
but from these, and other circumstances which might 
be insisted upon, I can see no ground for believing 
that the genealogy of Jesus Christ, mentioned by St. 
Matthew, is not a solemn truth. 

You insist much upon some things being mention- 
ed by one evangelist, which are not mentioned by all, 
or by any of the others ; and you take this to be a rea- 
son why we should consider the Gospels, not as the 
works of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, but as the 
productions of some unconnected individuals, each of 
whom made his own legend. I do not admit the truth 
of this supposition ; but I may be allowed to use it as 
an argument against yourself: it removes every pos- 
sible suspicion of fraud and imposture, and confirms 
the Gospel history in the strongest manner. Four un- 
connected individuals have each written memoirs oi 
the life of Jesus: from whatever source they derived 
their materials, it is evident that they agree in a great 
many particulars of the last importance ; such as the 
purity of his manners, the sanctity of his doctrines, 
the multitude and publicity of his miracles, the per- 
secuting spirit of his enemies, the manner of his 
death, and the certainty of his resurrection; and 
whilst they agree in these great points, their disa- 
greement in points of little consequence is rather a 
confirmation of the truth, than an indication of the 
falsehood of their several accounts. Had they agreed 
in nothing, their testimony ought to have been reject- 

381] REPLY TO PAINE. 99 

ed as a legendary tale ; had they agreed in every thing, 
it might have been suspected that, instead of uncon- 
nected individuals, they were a set of impostors. The 
manner in which the evangelists have recorded the 
particulars of the life of Jesus is wholly conformable 
to what we experience in other biographers, and claims 
our highest assent to its truth, notwithstanding the 
force of your incontrovertible proposition. 

As an instance of contradiction between the evan- 
gelists, you tell us that Matthew says, the angel an- 
nouncing the immaculate conception appeared unto 
Joseph ; but Luke says, he appeared unto Mary. The 
angel, sir, appeared to them both ; to Mary, when he 
informed her that she should, by the power of God, 
conceive a son ; to Joseph, some months afterwards, 
when Mary's pregnancy was visible ; in the interim 
she had paid a visit of three months to her cousin 
Elizabeth. It might have been expected, that, from 
the accuracy with which you have read your Bible, 
you could not have confounded these obviously dis- 
tinct appearances ; but men, even of candor, are lia- 
ble to mistakes. Who, you ask, would now believe 
a girl, who should say that she was gotten with child 
by a ghost? Who, but yourself, would ever have 
asked a question so abominably indecent and profane ? 
I cannot argue with you on this subject. You will 
never persuade the world that the Holy Spirit of God 
has any resemblance to the stage ghosts in Hamlet or 
Macbeth, from which you seem to have derived your 
idea of it. 

The story of the massacre of the young children 
by the order of Herod, is mentioned only by Matthew ; 
and therefore you think it is a lie. We must give up 

100 WATSON'S [3S2 

all history, if we refuse to admit facts recorded Dy only 
one historian. -Matthew addressed his Gospel to the 
Jews, and put them in mind of a circumstance of 
which they must have had a melancholy remem- 
brance ; but Gentile converts were less interested in 
that event. The evangelists were not writing the 
life of Herod, but of Jesus ; it is no wonder then that 
they omitted, above half a century after the death of 
Herod, an instance of his cruelty which was not es- 
sentially connected with their subject. The massa- 
cre, however, was probably known even at Rome 
and it was certainly correspondent to the character of 
Herod. "John," you say, at the time of the massacre 
" was under two years of age, and yet he escaped ; so 
that the story circumstantially belies itself. 7 ' John 
was six months older than Jesus ; and you canno 
prove that he was not beyond the age to which the 
order of Herod extended; it probably reached no far- 
ther than to those who had completed their first year, 
without including those who had entered upon their se 
'jond: but without insisting upon this, still I contenc 
that you cannot prove John to have been under two 
years of age at the time of the massacre ; and I coul( 
give many probable reasons to the contrary. Nor i 
it certain that John was, at that time, in that part ol 
the country to which the edict of Herod extended 
But there would be no end of answering at lengtl 
all your little objections. 

No two of the evangelists, you observe, agree in re 
citing, exactly in the same words, the written inscrip 
tion which was put over Christ when he was cruci 
lied. I admit that there is an unessential verbal dif 
ference ; and are you certain that there was not a ver 

383] REPLY TO PAINE. 101 

bal difference in the inscriptions themselves? One 
was written in Hebrew, another in Greek, another in 
Latin ; and though they all had the same meaning, 
yet it is probable, that if two men had translated the 
Hebrew and the Latin into Greek, there would have 
been a verbal difference between their translations. 
You have rendered yourself famous by writing a book 
called The Rights of Man: had you been guillotined 
by Robespierre, with this title, written in French, 
English, and German, and affixed to the guillotine, 
" Thomas Paine, of America, author of The Rights 
of Man ;" and had four persons, some of whom had 
seen the execution, and the rest had heard of it from 
eye-witnesses, written short accounts of your life 
twenty years or more after your death, and one had 
said the inscription was, " This is Thomas Paine, the 
author of The Rights of Man;' ? another, "The au- 
thor of The Rights of Man;" a third, "This is the 
author of The Rights of Man ;" and a fourth, " Tho- 
. mas Paine, of America, the author of The Rights of 
Man ;" would any man of common sense have doubt- 
ed, on account of this disagreement, the veracity of 
the authors in writing your life ? " The only one," 
you tell us, " of the men called apostles, who appears 
to have been near the spot where Jesus was crucified, 
was Peter." This your assertion is not true : we do 
not know thai Peter was present at the crucifixion ; 
but we do know that John, the disciple whom Jesus 
loved, was present ; for Jesus spoke to him from the 
cross. You go on, "But why should we believe 
Peter, convicted by their own account of perjury, in 
swearing that he knew not Jesus ?" I will tell you 
why ; because Peter sincerely repented of the wick- 

102 WATSON'S [384 

edness into which he had been betrayed, through fear 
for his life, and suffered martyrdom in attestation of 
the truth of the Christian religion. 

But the evangelists disagree, you say, not only as to 
the superscription on the cross, but as to the time of 
the crucifixion, "Mark saying it was at the third hour, 
(nine in the morning,) and John at the sixth hour, 
(twelve, as you suppose, at noon.") Various solutions 
have been given of this difficulty, none of which satis- 
fied Doctor Middleton, much less can it be expected 
that any of them should satisfy you ; but there is a so* 
lution not noticed by him, in which many judicious 
men have acquiesced, that John, writing his Gospel 
in Asia, used the Roman method of computing time, 
which was the same as our own ; so that by the sixth 
hour, when Jesus was condemned, we are to under- 
stand six o'clock in the morning; the intermediate 
lime from six to nine, when he was crucified, being 
employed in preparing for the crucifixion. But if this 
difficulty should be still esteemed insuperable, it does 
not follow that it will always remain so ; and if it 
should, the main point, the crucifixion of Jesus, will 
not be affected thereby. 

I cannot, in this place, omit remarking some circum- 
stances attending the crucifixion, which are so natural, 
that we might have wondered if they had not occurred. 
Of all the disciples of Jesus, John was beloved by him 
with a peculiar degree of affection ; and, as kindness 
produces kindness, there can be little doubt that the 
regard was reciprocal. Now, whom should we expect 
to be the attendants of Jesus in his last suffering 1 
Whom but John, the friend of his heart? Whom but 
his mother, whose soul was now pierced through by 

385] REPLY TO PAUSE, 103 

the swcrd of sorrow, which Simeon had foretold 1 ? 
Whom but those who had been attached to him 
through life, who, having been healed by him of their 
infirmities, were impelled by gratitude to minister to 
him of their substance, to be attentive to all his wants ? 
These were the persons whom we should have ex- 
pected to attend his execution, and these were there. 
To whom would an expiring son, of the best affections, 
recommend a poor, and, probably, a widowed mother, 
but to his warmest friend ? And this did Jesus. Un- 
mindful of the extremity of his own torture, and anx- 
ious to alleviate the burden of her sorrows, and to pro- 1 
tect her old age from future want and misery, he said 
to his beloved disciple, " Behold thy mother ! and from 
that hour lhat disciple took her to his own home." I 
own to you that such instances as these, of the con- 
formity cf events to our probable expectation, are to 
me genuine marks of the simplicity and truth of the 
Gospels ; and far outweigh a thousand little objections^ 
arising from our ignorance of manners, times, and cir- 
cumstances, or from our incapacity to comprehend the 
means used by the Supreme Being in the moral go-* 
vernment cf his creatures. 

St. Matthew mentions several miracles which at- 
tended our Savior's crucifixion the darkness which 
overspread the land the rending of the veil of the 
temple an earthquake which rent the rocks and the 
resurrection of many saints, and their going into the 
holy city. u Such," you say, "is the account which 
this dashing writer of the book of Matthew gives, but 
in which he is not supported by the writers of the other 
books." This is not accurately expressed; Matthew is 
supported by Mark and Luke, with respect to two of 

104 WATSON'S [386 

the miracles the darkness and the rending of the 
veil; and their omission of the others does not prove 
that they were either ignorant of them, or disbelieved 
them. I think it idle to pretend to say positively what 
influenced them to mention only two miracles : they 
probably thought them sufficient to convince any per 
soi^ as they convinced the centurion, that Jesus " was 
a righteous man, the Son of God." And these two 
miracles were better calculated to produce general 
conviction amongst the persons for whose benefit 
Mark and Luke wrote their Gospels, than either the 
earthquake or the resurrection of the saints. The earth- 
quake was, probably, confined to a particular spot, and 
might, by an objector, have been called a natural phe- 
nomenon ; and those to whom the saints appeared might, 
at the time of writing the Gospels of Mark and Luke, 
have been dead ; but the darkness must have been ge- 
nerally known and remembered, and the veil of the 
temple might still be preserved at the time these au- 
thors wrote. As to John not mentioning any of these 
miracles it is well known that his Gospel was writ- 
ten as a kind of supplement to the other Gospels ; he 
has therefore omitted many things which the other 
three evangelists had related, and he has added seve- 
ral things which they had not mentioned : in particu- 
lar, he has added a circumstance of great importance; 
he tells us that he saw one of the soldiers pierce the 
side of Jesus with a spear, and that the blood and wa- 
ter flowed through the wound ; and lest any one should 
doubt of the fact, from its not being mentioned by the 
other evangelists, he asserts it with peculiar earnest- 
ness. " And he that saw it bare record, and his record 
is true ; and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye 

387] REPLY TO PAINE. 105 

might believe." John saw blood and water flowing 
from the \vcund ; the blood is easily accounted for ; 
but whence came the water? The anatomists tell us 
that it came from the pericardium; so consistent is 
evangelical testimony with the most curious researches 
into natural science ! You amuse yourself with the ac- 
count of what the Scripture calls many saints, and you 
call an army of saints, and are angry with Matthew 
for not having told you a great many things about them. 
It is very possible that Matthew might have known 
the fact of their resurrection without knowing every 
thing about them ; but if he had gratified your curiosi- 
ty in every particular, I am of opinion that you would 
not have believed a word of what he had told you. I 
have no curiosity on the subject; it is enough for me 
to know that " Christ was the first fruits of them that 
slept." and " that all that are in the graves shall hear 
his voice and shall come forth," as those holy men did 
who heard the voice of the Son of God at his resur- 
rection, and passed from- death to life. If I first in- 
dulge myself in being wise above what is written, I 
must be able to answer many of your inquiries rela- 
tive to the saints ; but I dare not touch the ark of the 
Lord, I dare not support the authority of the Scripture 
by the boldness of conjecture. Whatever difficulty 
there may be in accounting for the silence of the other 
evangelists, and of St. Paul also on this subject, yet 
there is a greater difficulty in supposing that Matthew 
did not give a true narration of what had happened at 
the crucifixion. If there had been no supernatural dark- 
ness, no earthquake, no rending of the veil of the tem- 
ple, no graves opened, no resurrection of holy men, no 
appearance of them unto many if none of these things 


106 WATSON'S [288 

had been true, or rather, if any one of them had been 
false, what motive could Matthew, writing t j the Jews, 
have had for trumping up such wonderful stories ? He 
wrote, as every man does, with an intention to be be- 
lieved ; and yet every Jew he met would have stare 
him in the face and told him that he was a liar am 
an impostor. What author, who, twenty years hence, 
should address to the French nation a history of Louis 
XVI. would venture to affirm that when he was be- 
headed there was darkness for three hours over all 
France ? that there was an earthquake ? that rocks were 
split? graves opened? and dead men brought to life, 
who appeared to many persons in Paris ? It is quit 
impossible to suppose that any one should dare to ruh 
lish such obvious lies ; and I think it equally im 
ble to suppose that Matthew would have dared fo pub 
lish his account of what happened at the death of Jesus 
had not the account been generally known to be true 


The " tale of the resurrection," you say, " follow 
that of the crucifixion." You have accustomed me s 
much to this kind of language, that when I find yo 
speaking of a tale, I have no doubt of meeting with 
truth. From the apparent disagreement in the ac 
counts which the evangelists have given of some cir 
cumstances respecting the resurrection, you remark 
" If the writers of these books had gone into any cour 
of justice to prove an alibi, (for it is the nature of an 
alibi that is here attempted to be proved, namely, the 
absence of a dead body by supernatural means,) anc 
have given their evidence in the same contradictor 

389] REPLY TO PAIXE. 107 

manner as it is here given, they would have been in 
danger of having their ears cropt for perjury, and 
would have justly deserved it :" " hard words, or 
hanging," it seems, if you had been their judge. Now 
I maintain that it is the brevity with which the ac- 
count of the resurrection is given by all the evange- 
lists which has occasioned the seeming confusion, 
and that this confusion would have been cleared up at 
once, if the witnesses of the resurrection had been exa- 
mined before any judicature. As we cannot have this 
viva voce examination of all the witnesses, let us call 
up and question the evangelists as witnesses to a su- 
pernatural alibi. Did you find the sepulchre of Jesus 
empty ? One of us actually saw it empty, and the rest 
heard, from eye-witnesses, that it was empty. Did you, 
or any of the followers of Jesus, take away the dead 
body from the sepulchre ? All answer, No. Did the 
soldiers or the Jews take away the body ? No. How 
are you certain of that? Because we saw the body 
when it was dead, and saw it afterwards when it was 
alive. How do you know that what you saw was the 
body of Jesus ? We had been long and intimately ac- 
quainted with Jesus, and knew his person perfectly. 
Were you not affrighted, and mistook a spirit for a 
body ? No ; the body had flesh and bones ; we are sure 
that it was the very body which hung upon the cross, 
for we saw the wound in his side, and the print of the 
nails in the hands and feet. And to all this you are 
ready to swear ? We are ; and we are ready to die also, 
sooner than- we will deny any part of it. This is the 
testimony which all the evangelists would give, in 
whatever court of justice they were examined ; and 
this, I apprehend, would sufficiently establish the alibi 

108 WATSON'S [390 

of the dead body from the sepulchre by supernatural 

But as the resurrection of Jesus is a point which you 
attack with all your force, I will examine minutely the 
principal of your objections ; I do not think them de- 
serving of this notice, but they shall have it. The 
book of Matthew, you say, " states that when Christ 
was put in the sepulchre, the Jews applied to Pilate 
for a watch or a guard to be placed over the sepulchre, 
to prevent the body being stolen by the disciples." I 
admit this account; but it is not the whole of the ac 
count ; you have omitted the reason for the reques 
which the chief priests made to Pilate : " Sir, we re 
member that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive 
after three days I will rise again." It is material to 
remark this ; for at the very time that Jesus predicted 
his resurrection, he predicted also his crucifixion, and 
all that he should suffer from the malice of those very 
men who now applied to Pilate fora guard. "He 
showed to his disciples, how that he must go unto Je- 
rusalem, and suffer many things of the elders, and chief 
priests, and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again 
the third day." Matthew, 16: 21. These men knew 
full well that the first part of this prediction had been 
actually fulfilled through their malignity ; and instead 
of repenting of what they had done, they wexe so in- 
fatuated as to suppose that by a guard of soldiers they 
could prevent the completion of the second. The othe 
books, you observe, "say nothing about this applic 
tion, nor about the sealing of the stone, nor the guard 
nor the watch, and according to these accounts the 
were none." This, Sir, I deny. The other books < 
not say that there were none of these things : how i 

391] REPLY TO PAINE. 109 

ten must I repeat, that omissions are not contradictions, 
nor silence concerning a fact a denial of it ? 

You go on : "The book of Matthew continues its ac- 
count, that at the end of the Sabbath, as it began to 
dawn, towards the first day of the week, came Mary 
Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. 
Mark says it was sun-rising, and John says it was 
dark. Luke says it was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, 
and Mary the mother of James, and other women that 
came to the sepulchre. And John says that Mary 
Magdalene came alone. So well do they all agree 
about their first evidence ! They all appear, however, 
to have known most about Mary Magdalene ; she was 
a woman of a large acquaintance, and it was not an ill 
conjecture that she might be upon the stroll." This 
is a long paragraph : I will answer it distinctly. First, 
there is no disagreement of evidence with respect to 
the time when the women went to the sepulchre ; all 
the evangelists agree as to the day on which they 
went ; and, as to the time of the day, it was early in 
the morning: what court of justice in the world would 
set aside this evidence, as insufficient to substantiate 
the fact of the women's having gone to the sepulchre, 
because the witnesses differed as to the degree of twi- 
light which lighted them on their way ? Secondly, 
there is no disagreement of evidence with respect to 
U e persons who went to the sepulchre. John states 
that Mary Magdalene went to the sepulchre ; but he 
does not state, as you make him state, that Mary Mag- 
dalene went alone ; she might, for any thing you have 
proved, or can prove to the contrary, have been accom- 
panied by all the women mentioned by Luke : is it an 
unusual thing to distinguish by name a principal per- 

110 WATSON'S [392 

son going on a visit, or on an embassy, without men- 
tioning his subordinate attendants? Thirdly, in oppo- 
sition to your insinuation that Mary Magdalene was a 
common woman, I wish it to be considered whether 
there is any scriptural authority for that imputation ; 
and whether there be or not, I must contend that a re- 
pentant and reformed woman ought not to be esteemed 
an improper witness of a fact. The conjecture which 
you adopt concerning her is nothing less than an illi- 
beral, indecent, unfounded calumny, not excusable in 
the mouth of a libertine, and intolerable in yours. 

" The book of Matthew," you observe, "goes on to 
say, ' And behold, there was an earthquake, for the an- 
gel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and 
rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it ; 
but the other books say nothing about an earthquake/- 
What then ? does their silence prove that there was 
none ? " Nor about the angel rolling back the stone 
and sitting upon it ;" what then ? does their silence 
prove that the stone was not rolled back by an angel, 
and that he did not sit upon it ? u And according to 
their accounts, there was no angel sitting there." This 
conclusion I must deny : their accounts do not say 
there was no angel sitting there at the time that Mat- 
thew says he sat upon the stone. They do not deny 
the fact, they simply omit the mention of it ; and they 
all take notice that the women, when they arrived at 
the sepulchre, found the stone rolled away : hence it 
is evident that the stone was rolled away before the 
women arrived at the sepulchre ; and the other evan 
gelists, giving an account of what happened to the wo 
men when they reached the sepulchre, have merely 
omitted giving an account of a transaction previous 

,193] REPLY TO PAINE. Ill 

to their arrival. Where is the contradiction ? What 
space of time intervened between the rolling away the 
stone and the arrival of the women at the sepulchre, 
is no where mentioned ; but it certainly was long 
enough for the angel to have changed his position ; 
from sitting on the outside he might have entered into 
the sepulchre : and another angel might have made 
his appearance ; or, from the first, there might have 
been two, one on the outside, rolling away the stone, 
and the other within. Luke, you tell us, " says there 
were two, and they were both standing; and John 
says there were two, and both sitting." It is impossi- 
ble, I grant, even for an angel to be sitting and stand- 
ing at the same instant of time ; but Luke and John 
do not speak of the same instant, nor of the same ap- 
pearance. Luke speaks of the appearance to all the 
women, and John of the appearance to Mary Magda- 
lene alone, who tarried weeping at the sepulchre after 
Peter and John had left it. But I forbear making any 
more minute remarks on still minuter objections, all 
of which are grounded on this mistake that the an- 
gels were seen at one particular time, in one particu- 
lar place, and by the same individuals. 

As to your inference, from Matthew's using the ex- 
pression unto this day, " that the book must have been 
manufactured after the lapse of some generations at 
least," it cannot be admitted against the positive tes- 
timony of all antiquity. That the story about stealing 
away the body was a bungling story, I readily admit ; 
but the chief priests are answerable for it : it is not 
worthy either your notice or mine, except as it is a 
strong instance to you, to me, and to every body, how 
far prejudices may mislead the understanding. 

112 WATSON'S [394 

You come to that part of the evidence in those 
books that respects, you say, " the pretended appear- 
ance of Christ after his pretended resurrection." The 
writer of the book of Matthew relates, that the angel 
that was sitting on the stone at the mouth of the se- 
pulchre, said to the two Marys, (ch. 28: 7,) "Behold, 
Christ is gone before you into Galilee, there shall you 
see him." The Gospel, s*r, was preached to poor and 
illiterate men, and it is the duty of priests to preach it 
to them in all its purity ; to guard them against the er- 
ror of mistaken, or the designs of wicked men. You, 
then, who can read your Bible, turn to this passage, 
and you will find that the angel did not say, " Behold, 
Christ is gone before you into Galilee ;" but, " Be- 
hold, he goeth before you into Galilee." I know not 
what Bible you made use of in this quotation, none 
that I have seen render the original word by, he is 
gone. It might be properly rendered, he will go : and 
it is literally rendered, he is going. This phrase does 
not imply an immediate setting out for Galilee. When 
a man has fixed upon a long journey to London or 
Bath, it is common enough to say, he is going to Lon- 
don or Bath, though the time of his going may be at 
some distance. Even your dashing Matthew could 
not be guilty of such a blunder as to make the an- 
gel say, he is gone ; for he tells us immediately af- 
terwards, that, as the women were departing from the 
sepulchre to tell his disciples what the angels had 
said to them, Jesus himself met them. Now, how Je- 
sus could be gone into Galilee, and yet meet the wo- 
men at Jerusalem, I leave you to explain, for the blun- 
der is not chargeable upon Matthew. I excuse your 
introducing the expression, ''then the elevp.n disciples 

395 I REPLY TO PAINE. 113 

went away into Galilee," for the quotation is rightly 
made ; but had you turned to the Greek Testament, 
you would not have found in this place any word an- 
swering to then: the passage is better translated " and 
the eleven." Christ had said to his disciples, (Matt. 
26: 32,) " After I am risen again, I will go before you 
into Galilee ;" and the angel put the women in mind 
of the very expression and prediction : he is risen, as 
he said ; and behold, he goeth before you into Gali- 
lee. Matthew, intent upon the appearance in Galilee, 
of which there were, probably, at the time he wrote, 
many living witnesses in Judea, omits the mention of 
many appearances taken notice of by John, and by 
this omission seems to connect the day of the resur- 
rection of Jesus with that of the departure of the dis- 
ciples for Galilee. You seem to think this a great dif- 
ficulty, and incapable of solution ; for you say, " It is 
not possible, unless we admit these disciples the right 
of willful lying, that the writers of these books could 
be any of the eleven persons called disciples ; for if, 
according to Matthew, the eleven went into Galilee to 
meet Jesus in a mountain, by his own appointment, on 
the same day that he is said to have risen, Luke and 
John must have been two of that eleven ; yet the wri- 
ter of Luke says expressly, and John implies as much, 
that the meeting was that day in a house at Jerusalem : 
and on the other hand, if, according to Luke and John, 
the eleven were assembled in a house at Jerusalem, 
Matthew must have been one of that eleven ; yet Mat- 
thew says the meeting was in a mountain in Galilee, 
and consequently the evidence given in those books 
destroy each other." When I was a young man in the 
university, I was pretty much accustomed to drawing 

114 WATSON'S [396 

of consequences ; but my Alma Mater did not suffer 
me to draw consequences after your manner : she 
taught me that a false position must end in an absurd 
conclusion. I have shown your position, "that the 
eleven went into Galilee on the day of the resurrec- 
tion," to be false, and hence your consequence, " that 
the evidence given in these two books destroy each 
other," is not to be admitted. You ought, moreover, 
to have considered that the feast of unleavened bread, 
which immediately followed the day on which the 
passover was eaten, lasted seven days ; and that strie 
observers of the law did not think themselves at liber 
ty to leave Jerusalem till that feast was ended ; an 
this is a collateral proof that the disciples did not g 
to Galilee on the day of the resurrection. 

You certainly have read the New Testament, bu 
not, I think, with great attention, or you would hav 
known who the apostles were. In this place yo 
reckon Luke as one of the eleven, and in other place 
you speak of him as an eye-witness of the things h 
relates. You ought to have known that Luke was n 
apostle ; and he tells you himself, in the preface t 
his Gospel, that he wrote from the testimony of others 
If this mistake proceeds from your ignorance, you ar 
not a fit person to write comments on the Bible; if 
from design, (which I am unwilling to suspect,) you 
are still less fit : in either case it may suggest to your 
readers the propriety of suspecting the truth and ac- 
curacy of your assertions, however daring and intem- 
perate. " Of the numerous priests or parsons of the 
present day, bishops and all, the sum total of whose? 
learning," according to you, "is a b &, and hie, hoc, 
Aoc, there is not one amongst them.* 5 you say, "w 

397] REPLY TO PAINE, 115 

can write poetry like Homer, or science like Euclid." 
If I should admit this, (though there are many of them, 
I doubt not, who understand these authors better than 
you do,) yet I cannot admit that there is one amongst 
them, bishops and all, so ignorant as to rank Luke the 
evangelist among the apostles of Christ. I will not 
press this point ; any man may fall into a mistake, and 
the consciousness of this infallibility should create in 
all men a little modesty, a little diffidence, a little cau- 
tion, before they presume to call the most illustrious 
characters of antiquity liars, fools, and knaves. 

You want to know why Jesus did not show himself 
to all the people after the resurrection. This is one of 
Spinoza's objections, and it may sound well enough 
in the mouth of a Jew, wishing to excuse the infidelity 
of his countrymen : but it is not judiciously adopted 
by deists of other nations. God gives us the means 
of health, but he does not force us to the use of them ; 
he gives us the powers of the mind, but he does not 
compel us to the cultivation of them ; he gave the 
Jews opportunities of seeing the miracles of Jesus, but 
he did not oblige them to believe them. They who 
persevered in their incredulity after the resurrection of 
Lazarus, would have persevered also after the resur- 
rection of Jesus. Lazarus had been buried four days, 
Jesus but three ; the body of Lazarus had begun to un- 
dergo corruption, the body of Jesus saw no corruption ; 
why should you expect that they would have believed 
in Jesus on his own resurrection, when they had not 
believed in him on the resurrection of Lazarus ? When 
the Pharisees were told of the resurrection of Lazarus, 
they, together with the chief priests, gathered a coun- 
cil and said, " What do we ? for this man doeth maoiy 

116 WATSON'S, [3 

miracles. If we let him thus alone, all men will be- 
lieve on him. Then from that day forth they took coun- 
sel together to put him to death." The great men at 
Jerusalem, you see, admitted that Jesus had raised La- 
zarus from the dead ; yet the belief of that miracle did 
not generate conviction that Jesus was the Christ : it 
only exasperated their malice and accelented their 
purpose of destroying him. Had Jesus shown himself 
after his resurrection, the chief priests would probably 
have gathered together another council, have opened 
it with " What do we ?" and ended it with a deter- 
mination to put him to death. As to us, the evidence 
of the resurrection of Jesus, which we have in the 
New Testament, is far more convincing than if it had 
been related that he showed himself to every man in 
Jerusalem ; for then we should have had a suspicion 
that the whole story had been fabricated by the Jews. 
You think Paul an improper witness of the resur- 
rection ; I think him one of the fittest that could have 
been chosen ; and for this reason his testimony is the 
testimony of a former enemy. He had, in his own mi- 
raculous conversion, sufficient ground for changing his 
opinion as to the matter of fact for believing that to 
have been a fact, which he had formerly, through ex- 
treme prejudice, considered as a fable. For the truth 
of the resurrection of Jesus he appeals to above two 
hundred and fifty living witnesses ; and before whon 
does he make his appeal ? Before his enemies, who 
were able and willing to blast his character, if he had 
advanced an untruth. You know, undoubtedly, tb 
Paul had resided at Corinth near two years ; that durir 
apart of that time he had testified to the Jews that Jesu 
was the Christ ; that, finding the bulk of that natio 

399] REPLY TO PAINE. 117 

obstinate in their unbelief, he had turned to the Gen- 
tiles, and had converted many to the faith in Christ ; 
that he left Corinth, and went to preach the Gospel in 
other parts ; that, about three years after he had quit- 
ted Corinth, he wrote a letter to the converts which 
he had made in that place, and who, after his depar- 
ture, had been split into different factions, and had 
adopted different teachers in opposition to Paul. From 
this account we may be certain that Paul's letter, and 
every circumstance in it, would be minutely examined. 
The city of Corinth was full of Jews ; these men were, 
in general, Paul's bitter enemies ; yet, in the face of 
them all, he asserts " that Jesus Christ was buried ; 
that he rose again the third day ; that he was seen of 
Cephas, then of the twelve ; that he was afterwards 
seen of above five hundred brethren at once, of whom 
the greater pan were then alive." An appeal to above 
two hundred and fifty living witnesses is a pretty 
strong proof of a fact ; but it becomes irresistible when 
that appeal is submitted to the judgment of enemies. 
St. Paul, you must allow, was a man of ability ; but 
he would have been an idiot had he put it in the power 
of his enemies to prove, from his own letter, that he 
was a lying rascal. They neither proved, nor attempted 
to prove any such thing ; and therefore we may safe- 
ly conclude that this testimony of Paul to the resur- 
rection of Jesus was true : and it is a testimony, in my 
opinion, of the greatest weight. 

You come, you say, to the last scene, the ascension ; 
upon which, in your opinion, " the reality of the fu- 
ture mission of the disciples was to rest for proof," I 
do not agree with you in this. The reality of the future 
mission of the apostles might have been proved, though 

118 WATSON'S [400 

Jesus Christ had not visibly ascended into heaven. 
Miracles are tne proper proofs of a divine mission; 
and when Jesus gave the apostles a commission to 
preach the Gospel, he commanded them to stay at Je- 
rusalem till they were endued with power from on 
high. Matthew has omitted the mention of the ascen- 
sion; and John, you say, has not said a syllable about 
it. I think otherwise. John has not given an express 
account of the ascension, but he has certainly said 
something about it; for he informs us that Jesus said 
to Mary, " Touch me not ; for I am not yet ascended 
to my Father; but go to my brethren, and say unto 
them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and to 
my God and your God." This is surely saying some- 
thing about the ascension ; and if the fact of the ascen- 
sion be not related by John or Matthew, it may rea- 
sonably be supposed that the omission was made on 
account of the notoriety of the fact. That the fact was 
generally known may be justly collected from the re- 
ference which Peter makes to it, in the hearing of all 
the Jews, a very few days after it had happened, " This 
Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. 
Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted." 
Paul bears testimony also to the ascension, when he 
says that Jesus was received up into glory. As to 
the difference you contend for, between the account of 
the ascension as given by Mark and Luke, it does not 
exist ; except in this, that Mark omits the particulars 
of Jesus going' with his apostles to Bethany and bless- 
ing them there, which are mentioned by Luke. But 
omissions, I must often put you in mind, are not con- 

You havo now, you say, "gone through the exa- 

401] REPLY TO PAINE. 119 

mination of the four books ascribed to Matthew, Mark, 
Luke and John ; and when it is considered that the 
whole space of time, from the crucifixion to what is 
called the ascension, is but a few days, apparently not 
more than three or four, and that all the circumstances 
are reported to have happened near the same spot, Je- 
rusalem, it is, I believe, impossible to find, in any story 
upon record, so many and such glaring absurdities, 
contradictions, and falsehoods, as are in those books." 
What am I to say to this ? Am I to say that, in writ- 
ing this paragraph, you have forfeited your character 
as an honest man ? Or, admitting your honesty, am I 
to say that you are grossly ignorant of the subject? 
Let the reader judge. John says that Jesus appeared 
to his disciples at Jerusalem on the day of his resur- 
rection, and that Thomas was not then with them. 
The same John says, that after eight days he appeared 
to them again, when Thomas was with them. Now, 
sir, how apparently three or four days can be consist- 
ent with really eight days I leave you to make out. 
But this is not the whole of John's testimony, either 
with respect to place or time; for he says, "After these 
things (after the two appearances to the disciples at 
Jerusalem on the first and on the eighth day after the 
resurrection) Jesus showed himself again to his disci- 
ples at the sea of Tiberias." The sea of Tiberias, I 
presume you know, was in Galilee ; and Galilee, you 
may know, was sixty or seventy miles from Jerusalem: 
it must have taken the disciples some time, after the 
eighth day, to travel from Jerusalem into Galilee. 
What, in your own insulting language to the priests, 
what have you to answer, as to the same spot Jeru- 
salem, and as to your apparently three or four days ? 




But this is not all. Luke, m the beginning of the 
Acts, refers to his Gospel, and says, " Christ showed 
himself alive after his passion, by many infallible 
proofs, being seen of the apostles forty days, and 
speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom ol 
God." Instead of four, you perceive there was forty 
days between the crucifixion and the ascension, 
need not, I trust, after this, trouble myself about the 
falsehoods and contradictious which you impute to the 
evangelists ; your readers cannot but be upon their 
guard as to the credit due to your assertions, however 
bold and improper. You will suflerme to remark, that 
the evangelists were plain men ; who, convinced of the 
truth of their narration, and conscious of their own in- 
tegrity, have related what they knew with admirable 
simplicity. They seem to have said to the Jews of 
their time, and to say to the unbelievers of all times 
we have told you the truth ; and if you will not believe 
us, we have nothing more to say. Had they been im- 
postors they would have written with more caution 
and art, have obviated every cavil, and avoided ever 
appearance of contradiction. This they have not done; 
and this I consider as a proof of their honesty and 

John the Baptist had given his testimony to the truth 
of our Savior's mission in the most unequivocal terms; 
he afterwards sent two of his disciples to Jesus, to ask 
him whether he was really the expected Messiah 
not. Matthew relates both these circumstances : ha 
the writer of the book of Matthew been an imposto 
vvould he have invalidated John's testimony, by bring 
ing forward his real or apparent doubt? Impossible! 
Matthew, having proved the resurrection of Jesus, tell 

403] REPLY TO PAINE. il 

us that the eleven disciples went away into Galilee 
into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them, and 
" when they saw him, they worshiped him ; but some 
doubted." Would an impostpr, in the very last place 
where he mentions the resurrection, and in the con- 
clusion of his book, have suggested such a cavil to un- 
believers, as to say, " some doubted ?" Impossible ! The 
evangelist has left us to collect the reason why some 
doubled. The disciples saw Jesus, at a distance, on 
the mountain; and some of them fell down and wor- 
shiped him ; whilst others doubted whether the person 
they saw was really Jesus : their doubt, however, could 
not have lasted long, for in the very next verse we are 
told that Jesus came and spake unto them. 

Great and laudable pains have been taken by many 
learned men to harmonize the several accounts given 
us by the evangelists of the resurrection. It does not 
seem to me to be a matter of any great consequence to 
Christianity whether the accounts can, in every minute 
particular, be harmonized or not ; since there is no such 
discordance in them as to render the fact of the resur- 
rection doubtful to any impartial mind. If any man, 
in a court of justice, should give positive evidence of 
a fact, and three others should afterwards be examined, 
and all of them should confirm the evidence of the first 
as to the fact, but should apparently differ from him 
and from each other, by being more or less particular 
in their accounts of the circumstances attending the 
fact ; ought we to doubt of the fact because we could 
not harmonize the evidence respecting the circum- 
stances relating to it? The omission of any one cir- 
cumstance (such as that of Mary Magdalene having 
gone twice to the sepulchre ; or that of the angel hav- 

122 WATSON'S [404 

ing, after he had rolled away the stone from the sepul- 
chre, entered into the sepulchre) may render a har- 
mony impossible, without having recourse to supposi- 
tion to supply the defect. You deists laugh at all such 
attempts, and call them priestcraft. I think it better 
then, in arguing with you, to admit that there may be 
(not granting, however, that there is) an irreconcilable 
difference between the evangelists in some of their ac- 
counts respecting the life of Jesus, or his resurrection. 
Be it so; what then? Does this difference, admitting 
it to be real, destroy the credibility of the Gospel his- 
tory in any of its essential points ? Certainly, in my 
opinion, not. As I look upon this to be a general an- 
swer to most of your deistical objections, 1 profess my 
sincerity in saying that I consider it as a true and 
sufficient answer; and I leave it to your consideration. 
I have purposely, in the whole of this discussion, been 
silent as to the inspiration of the evangelists, well 
knowing that you would have rejected, with scorn, any 
thing I could have said on that point ; but in disputing 
with a deist, I do most solemnly contend that the 
Christian religion is true, and worthy of all accepta- 
tion, whether the evangelists were inspired or not. 

Unbelievers in general wish to conceal their senti- 
ments ; they have a decent respect for public opinion ; 
are cautious of affronting the religion of their country, 
fearful of undermining the foundations of civil society. 
Some few have been more daring, but less judicious, 
and have, without disguise, professed their unbelief. 
But you are the first who ever swore that he was 
an infidel, concluding your deistical creed with So 
help me God ! I pray that God may help you ; that 
he may, through the influence of his Holy Spirit, 

405] REPLY TO PAINE. *23 

bring you to a right mind ; convert you to the religion 
of his Son, whom, out of his abundant love to man- 
kind, he sent into the world, that all who believe in 
him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 

You swear that you think the Christian religion 
is not true. I give full credit to your oath ; it is an 
oath in confirmation of what ? of an opinion. It 
proves the sincerity of your declaration of your opi- 
nion ; but the opinion, notwithstanding the oath, may 
be either true or false. Permit me to produce to you 
an oath not confirming an opinion, but a fact ; it is the 
oath of St. Paul, when he swears to the Galatians, 
that in what he told them of his miraculous conver- 
sion he did not lie; "Now the things which I write 
unto you, behold, before God, I lie not" do but give 
that credit to St. Paul which I give to you, do but 
consider the difference between an opinion and a fact, 
and I shall not despair of your becoming a Chris- 

Deism, you say, consists in a belief of one God, 
and an imitation of his moral character, or the prac- 
tice of what is called virtue ; and in this (as far as 
religion is concerned) you rest all your hopes. There 
is nothing in deism but what is in Christianity, but 
there is much in Christianity which is not in deism. 
The Christian has no doubt concerning a future state ; 
every deist, from Plato to Thomas Paine, is on this 
subject overwhelmed with doubts insuperable by hu- 
man reason. The Christian has no misgivings as to 
the pardon of penitent sinners, through the interces- 
sion of a mediator; the deist is harassed with appre- 
hensions lest the moral justice of God should demand, 
with inexorable rigor, punishment for transgression. 

124 WATSON'S [4 

The Christian has no doubt concerning the lawfulness 
and the efficacy of prayer ; the deist is disturbed i 
this point by abstract considerations concerning the 
goodness of God, which wants not to be entreated ; 
concerning his foresight, which has no need of our 
information ; concerning his immutability, which can- 
not be changed through our supplication. The Chris- 
tian admits the providence of God and the liberty of 
human actions ; the deist is involved in great difficul- 
ties when he undertakes the proof of either. The 
Christian has assurance that the Spirit of God will 
help his infirmities ; the deist does not deny the pos- 
sibility that God may have access to the human mind, 
but he has no ground to believe the fact of his either 
enlightening the understanding, influencing the will, 
or purifying the heart. 


" Those," you say, " who are not much acquainted 
with ecclesiastical history, may suppose that the book 
called the New Testament has existed ever since the 
time of Jesus Christ : but the fact is historically other- 
wise ; there was no such book as the New Testament 
till more than three hundred years after the time that 
Christ is said to have lived." This paragraph is cal- 
culated to mislead common readers ; it is necessary 
to unfold its meaning. The book called the New 
Testament, consists of twenty-seven different parts : 
concerning seven of these, viz. the Epistle to the 
Hebrews, that of James, the second of Peter, the 
second of John, the third of John, that of Jude, and 
the Revelation, there were at first some doubts j and 

407] REPLY TO PAINE. 125 

the question whether they should be received into the 
canon might be decided, as all questions concerning 
opinions must be, by vote. With respect to the other 
twenty parts, those who are most acquainted with 
ecclesiastical history will tell you, as Du Pin does after 
Eusebius, that they were owned as canonical, at all 
times, and by all Christians. Whether the council 
of Laodicea was held before or after that of Nice, is 
not a settled point : all the books of the New Testa- 
ment, except the Revelation, are enumerated as cano- 
nical in the Constitution of that council; but it is a 
great mistake to suppose that the greatest part of the 
books of the New Testament were not in generaluse 
amongst the Christians long before the council of 
Laodicea was held. This is not merely my opinion 
on the subject ; it is the opinion of one much better 
acquainted with ecclesiastical history than I am, and 
probably than you are Mosheim. " The opinions," 
says this author, " or rather the conjectures of the 
learned, concerning the time when the books of the 
New Testament were collected into one volume, as 
also about the authors of that collection, are extremely 
different. This important question is attended with 
great and almost insuperable difficulties to us in these 
latter times. It is however sufficient for us to know, 
that, before the middle of the second century, the 
greatest part of the books of the New Testament 
were read in every Christian society throughout the 
world, and received as a divine rule of faith and man- 
ners. Hence it appears that these sacred writings 
were carefully separated from several human compo- 
sitions upon the same subject, either by some of the 
apostles themselves who lived so long, or by their 

126 WATSON'S [408 

disciples and successors who were spread abroad 
through all nations. We are well assured that the 
four Gospels were collected during the life of St. 
John, and that the three first received the approbation 
of this divine apostle. And why may we not sup- 
pose that the other books of the New Testament were 
gathered together at the same time ? What renders 
this highly probable is, that the most urgent necessity 
required its being done. For, not long after Christ's 
ascension into heaven, several histories of his life 
and doctrines, full of pious frauds and fabulous won- 
ders, were composed by persons whose intentions, 
perhaps, were not bad, but whose writings discovered 
the greatest superstition and ignorance. Nor was this 
all ; productions appeared, which were imposed on the 
world by fraudulent men, as the writings of the holy 
apostles. These apocryphal and spurious writings 
must have produced a sad confusion, and rendered 
both the history and the doctrine of Christ uncertain, 
had not the rulers of the Church used all possible 
care and diligence in separating the books that were 
truly apostolical and divine from all that spurious 
trash, and conveying them down to posterity in one 

Did you ever read the Apology for the Christians 
which Justin Martyr presented to the emperor Anto 
nius Pius, to the senate and people of Rome ? I should 
sooner expect a fallacy in a petition which any body 
of persecuted men, imploring justice, should present to 
the king and parliament of Great Britain, than in this 
Apology. Yet in this Apology, which was presente' 
not fifty years after the death of St. John, not only 
parts of all the four Gospels are quoted, but it is ex- 


pressly said, that on the day called Sunday, a portion 
of them was read in the public assemblies of the Chris- 
tians. I forbear .pursuing this matter further, else it 
might easily be shown that probably the Gospels, and , 
certainly some of St. Paul's epistles, were known to 
Clement, Ignatius, and Polycarp, contemporaries 
with the apostles. These men could not quote or refer 
to books which did- not exist; and therefore, though 
you could make it cut that the book called the New 
Testament did not formally exist under that title till 
350 years after Christ, yet I hold it to be a certain fact 
that all the books of which it is composed were writ- 
ten, and most of them received by all Christians, within 
a few years after his death. 

You raise a difficulty relative to the time which in- 
tervened between the death and resurrection of Jesus, 
who had said, that the Son of man should be three days 
and three nights in the heart of the earth. Are you ig- 
norant, then, that the Jews used the phrase three days 
and three nights to denote what we understand by 
three days ? It is said in Genesis, chap. 7 : 12, " The 
rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights ; J> 
and this is equivalent to the expression, (ver. 17.) 
" And the flood was forty days upon the earth." In- 
stead then of saying three days and three nights, let 
us simply say three days ; and you will not object to 
Christ's being three days Friday, Saturday, and Sun- 
day in the heart of the earth. I do not say that he was 
in the grave the whole of either Friday or Sunday ; 
but a hundred instances might be produced, from wri- 
ters of all nations, in which a part of a day is spoken 
of as the whole. Thus much for the defence of the 
historical part of the New Testament, 

128 WATSOK'S [410 

You have introduced an account of Faustus^ as de- 
nying the genuineness of the books of the New Testa- 
ment. Will you permit that great scholar in sacred 
literature, Michaelis, to tell you something about this 
Faustus i " He was ignorant, as were most of the A 
lican writers, of the Greek language, and acquainted 
with the New Testament merely through the channel 
of the Latin translation : he was not only devoid of a 
sufficient fund of learning, but illiterate in the highest 
degree. An argument which he brings against the ge- 
nuineness of the Gospel affords sufficient ground for 
this assertion ; for he contends that the Gospel of St. 
Matthew could not have been written by St. Matthew 
himself, because he is always mentioned in the third 
person." You know who has argued like Faustus, but 
I did not think myself authorized on that account to 
call you illiterate in the highest degree); but Michaelis 
makes a still more severe conclusion concerning Faus- 
tus, and he extends his observation to every man who 
argued like him : " A man capable of such an argu- 
ment must have been ignorant not only of the Greek 
writers, the knowledge of which could not have been 
expected from Faustus, but even of the commentaries 
of CaBsar. And were it thought improbable that so 
heavy a charge could be laid with justice on the side of 
his knowledge, it would fall with double weight on 
the side of his honesty, and induce us to suppose that, 
preferring the art of sophistry to the plainness of truth, 
lie maintained opinions which he believed to be false." 
Never more, I think, shall we hear of Moses not be- 
ing the author of the Pentateuch, on account of its be- 
ing written in the third person. 

Not being able to produce any argument to rendei 

411] REPLY TO PAINE. 129 

questionable either the genuineness or the authentici- 
ty of St. Paul's Epistles, you tell us that "it is a mat- 
ter of no great importance by whom they were written, 
since the writer, whoever he was, attempts to prove 
his doctrine by argument: he does not pretend to have 
been witness to any of the scenes told of the resurrec- 
tion and ascension, and he declares that he had not 
believed them." That Paul had so far resisted the evi- 
dence which the apostles had given of the resurrection 
and ascension of Jesus as to be a persecutor of the 
disciples of Christ, is certain ; but I do not remember 
the place where he declares that he had not believed 
them. The high priest and the senate of the children 
of Israel did not deny the reality of the miracles which 
had been wrought by Peter and the apostles ; they did 
not contradict their testimony concerning the resur- 
rection and the ascension ; but, whether they believed 
it or not, they were fired with indignation, and took 
counsel to put the apostles to death : and this was also 
the temper of Paul : whether he believed or did not be- 
lieve the story of the resurrection, he was exceedingly 
mad against the saints. The writer of Paul's Epistles 
does not attempt to prove his doctrine by argument ; 
he in many places tells us that his doctrine was not 
taught him by man, or any invention of his own, which 
required the ingenuity of argument to prove it: "I 
certify you, brethren, that the Gospel, which was 
preached of me, is not after man ; for I neither reviv- 
ed it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the reve- 
lation of Jesus Christ." Paul does not pretend to have 
been a witness of the story of the resurrection, but he 
does much more, he asserts that he was himself a 
witness of the resurrection. After enumerating many 

130 WATSON'S [412 

appearances of Jesus to his disciples, Paul says of him- 
self, " Last of oil, he was seen of me also, as of one 
born out of due time." Whether you will admit Paul 
to have been a true witness or not, you cannot deny 
that he pretends to have been a witness of the resur- 

The story of his being struck to the ground, as ne 
was journeying to Damascus, has nothing in it, you 
say, miraculous or extraordinary ; you represent him 
as struck by lightning. It is somewhat extraordinary 
for a man who is struck by lightning, to have, at the 
very time, full possession of his understanding ; to hear 
a voice issuing from the lightning, speaking to him in 
the Hebrew tongue, calling him by his name, and en- 
tering into conversation with him. His companions, 
you say, appear not to have suffered in the same man- 
ner ; the greater the wonder. If it was a common storm 
of thunder and lightning which struck Paul and all his 
companions to the ground, it is somewhat extraordina- 
ry that he alone should be hurt; and that, notwith- 
standing his being struck blind by lightning, he should 
in other respects be so little hurt as to be immediate- 
ly able to walk into the city of Damascus. So difficult 
is it to oppose truth by an hypothesis ! In the charac- 
ter of Paul you discover a great deal of violence and 
fanaticism ; and such men, you observe, are never good 
moral evidences of any doctrine they teach. Read, 
s^d&ord Lyttelton's Observations on the Conversion 
and Apostleship of St. Paul, and I think you will be con- 
vinced of the contrary. That elegant writer thus ex- 
presses his opinion on this subject : " Besides ail the 
proofs of the Christian religion, which may be drawn 
from the prophecies of the Old Testament, from tlia 

413] REPLY TO PAINE. 131 

necessary connection it has with the whole system of 
the Jewish religion, from the miracles of Christ, and 
from the evidence given of his resurrection by all the 
other apostles, I think the conversion and apostleship 
of St. Paul alone, duly considered, is of itself a demon- 
stration sufficient to prove Christianity to be a divine 
revelation." I hope this opinion will have some weight 
with you ; it is not the opinion of a lying Bible-prophet, 
of a stupid evangelist, or of an a b db priest, but of a 
learned layman, whose illustrious rank received splen^ 
dor from his talents. 

You are displeased with St. Paul " for setting out 
to prove the resurrection of the same body." You 
know, I presume, that the resurrection of the same 
body is not, by all, admitted to be a scriptural doc- 
trine. " In the New Testament (wherein, I think, are 
contained all the articles of the Christian faith,) I find 
our Savior and the apostles to preach the resurrection 
of the dead, and the resurrection from the dead, in 
many places ; but I do not remember any place where 
the resurrection of the same body is so much as men- 
tioned." This observation of Mr. Locke I so far adopt, 
as to deny that you can produce any place in the writ- 
ings of St. Paul, wherein he sets out to prove the re- 
surrection of the same body. I do not question the 
possibility of the resurrection of the same body, and I 
am not ignorant of the manner in which some learned 
men have explained it; (somewhat after the way of 
your vegetative speck in the kernel of a peach ;) but 
as you are discrediting St. Paul's doctrine, you ought 
to show that what you attempt to discredit is the doc- 
trine of the apostle. As a matter of choice, you had 
rather have a better body you will have a better bo- 

132 WATSON'S [414 

dy, "your natural body will be raised a spiritual body, ' 
your corruptible will put on incorruption." You are 
so much out of humor with your present body, that 
you inform us every animal in the creation excels us 
in something. Now I had always thought that the 
single circumstance of our having hands, and their 
having none, gave us an intinite superiority, not only 
over insects, fishes, snails, and spiders, (which you re- 
present as excelling us in locomotive powers,) but 
over all the animals of the creation ; and enabled us ? 
in the language of Cicero, describing the manifold uti- 
lity of our hands, to make as it were a new nature of 
things. As to what you say about the consciousness 
of existence being the only conceivable idea of a fu- 
ture life, it proves nothing, either for or against the 
resurrection of a body, or of the same body ; it does 
not inform us whether to any or to what substance, 
material or immaterial, this consciousness is annexed. 
I leave it however to others, who do not admit per- 
sonal identity to consist in consciousness, to dispute 
with you on this point, and willingly subscribe to 
the opinion of Mr. Locke, "that nothing but con- 
sciousness can unite remote existences into the same 

From a caterpillar's passing into a torpid state re- 
sembling death, and afterwards appearing a splendid 
butterfly, and from the (supposed) consciousness of 
existence which the animal had in these different states, 
you ask, " Why must I believe that the resurrection of 
the same body is necessary to continue in me the con- 
sciousness of existence hereafter ?" I do not dislike ana- 
logical reasoning, when applied to proper objects and 
kept within due bounds ; but where is it said in Scrip- 

415] REPLY TO PAINE. 133 

ture, that the resurrection of the same hody is neces- 
sary to continue in you the consciousness of existence? 
Those who admit a conscious state of the soul be- 
tween death and the resurrection, will contend that 
the soul is the substance in which consciousness is 
continued without interruption: those who deny the 
intermediate state of the soul as a state of conscious- 
ness, will contend that consciousness is not destroyed 
by death, but suspended by it, as it is suspended dur- 
ing a sound sleep, and that it may as easily be restored 
after death as after sleep, during which the faculties 
of the soul are not extinct but dormant. Those who 
think that the soul is nothing distinct from the corn- 
pages of the body, not a substance but a mere quality, 
will maintain that the consciousness appertaining to 
every individual person is not lost when the body is 
destroyed .; that it is known to God, and may, at the 
general resurrection, be annexed to any system of mat- 
ter he may think fit, or to that particular compages to 
which it belonged in this life. 

In reading your book I have been frequently shocked 
at the virulence of your zeal, at the indecorum of your 
abuse in applying vulgar and offensive epithets to men 
who have been held, and who will long, I trust, con- 
tinue to be holden in high estimation. I know that 
the scar of calumny is seldom wholly effaced, it re- 
mains long after the wound is healed; and your abuse 
of holy men and holy things will be remembered when 
your arguments against them are refuted and forgot- 
ten. Moses you term an arrogant coxcomb, a chief 
assassin ; Aaron, Joshua, Samuel, David, monsters and 
imposters ; the Jewish kings a parcel of rascals ; Je- 
remiah and the rest of the prophets liars ; and Paul a 

134 WATSON'S [416 

fool, for having written one of the sublimest composi- 
tions, and on the most important subject that ever oc- 
cupied the mind of man the fifteenth chapter of the 
first Epistle to the Corinthians : this you call a doubt- 
ful jargon, as destitute of meaning as the tolling of 
the bell at a funeral. Men of low condition ! pressed 
down, as you often are, by calamities generally inci- 
dent to human nature, and groaning under burthens of 
misery peculiar to your condition, what thought you 
when you heard this chapter read at the funeral of 
your child, your parent, or your friend ? Was it mere 
jargon to you, as destitute of meaning as the tolling 
of a bell ? No. You understood from it that you 
would not all sleep, but that you would all be changed 
in a moment, at the last trump ; you understood from 
it that this corruptible must put on incorruption, that 
this mortal must put on immortality, and that death 
would be swallowed up in victory ; you understood 
from it, that if (notwithstanding profane attempts to 
subvert your faith) ye continue steadfast, immovable, 
always abounding in the work of the Lord, your labor 
will not be in vain. 

You seem fond of displaying your skill in science 
and philosophy ; you speak more than once of Euclid; 
and, in censuring St. Paul, you intimate to us, that 
when the apostle says, one star differeth from another 
star in glory, he ought to have said in distance. All 
men see that one star differeth from another star in glory 
or brightness, but few men know that their difference 
in brightness arises from their difference in distance ; 
and I beg leave to say, that even you, philosopher as 
you are, do not know it. You make an assumption 
which you cannot prove that the stars are equal in 


magnitude, and placed at different distances from the 
earth ; but you cannot prove that they are not different 
in magnitude and placed at equal distances, though 
none of them may be so near to the earth as to have 
any sensible annual parallax. I beg pardon of my 
readers for touching upon this subject; but it really 
moves one's indignation to see a smattering in philo- 
sophy urged as an argument against the veracity of an 
apostle. "Little learning is a dangerous thing." 

Paul, you say, affects to be a naturalist, and to prove 
(you might more probably have said illustrate) his 
system of resurrection from the principles of vegeta- 
tion : " Thou fool," says he, "that which thou sowest 
is not quickened, except it die ;" to which one might 
reply in his own language, and say, " Thou fool, Paul, 
that which thou sowest is not quickened except it die 
not." It may be seen, I think, from this passage, who 
affects to be a naturalist, to be acquainted with the 
microscopical discoveries of modern times ; which 
were probably neither known to Paul nor to the Co- 
rinthians ; and which, had they been known to them 
both, would have been of little use in the illustration 
of the subject of the resurrection. Paul said, "that 
which thou sowest is not quickened except it die:" 
every husbandman in Corinth, though unable perhaps 
to define the term death, would understand the apos- 
tle's phrase in a popular sense, and agree with him 
that a grain of wheat must become roiten in the 
ground before it could sprout ; and that, as God raised, 
from a rotten grain of wneat, the- roots, the stem, the 
leaves, the ear of a new plant, he might also cause a 
new body to spring up from the rotten carcass in the 
grave. Doctor Clarke observes, " In like manner, as 

136 WATSON'S ' 418 

in every grain of corn there is contained a minute in- 
sensible seminal principle, which is itself the entire 
future blade and ear, and in due season, when all the 
rest of the grain is corrupted, evolves and unfolds 
itself visibly to the eye ; so our present mortal and 
corruptible body may be but the exuvice, as it were, o! 
some hidden and at present insensible principle, (possi- 
bly the present seat of the soul,) which at the resur- 
rection shall discover itself in its proper form." 1 do 
not agree with this great man (for such I esteem him) 
in this philosophical conjecture ; but the quotation 
may serve to show you that the germ does not evolve 
and unfold itself visibly to the eye till after the rest 
of the graih is corrupted; that is, in the language 
and meaning of St. Paul, till it dies. Though the 
authority of Jesus may have as little weight with you 
as that of Paul, yet it may not be improper to quote 
to you our Savior's expression, when he foretells the 
numerous disciples which his death would produce 
"Except a corn of wheat fall unto the ground am 
die, it abideth alone ; but if it die, it bringeth fortl 
much fruit." You perceive from this, that the Jews 
thought the death of the grain was necessary to its re 
production : hence every one may see what little reason 
you had to object to the apostle's popular illustration 
of the possibility of a resurrection. Had he known 
as much as any naturalist in Europe does, of the pro 
gress of an animal from one state to another, as from 
a worm to a butterfly, (which you think applies to the 
case,) I am of opinion he would not have used tha 
illustration in preference to what he has used, which is 
obvious and satisfactory. 

Whether the fourteen epistles ascribed to Paul were 

419] REPLY 

written by him or not, is, iny^^jtidgnient, a matter 
of indifference. So far from being a matter of in- 
difference, I consider the genuineness of St. Paul's 
epistles to be a matter of the greatest importance ; for 
if the epistles ascribed to Paul were written by him, 
(and there is unquestionable proof that they were,) it 
will be difficult for you, or for any man, upon fair 
principles of sound reasoning, to deny that the Chris- 
tian religion is true. The argument is a short one, 
and obvious to every capacity. It stands thus: 
St. Paul wrote several letters to those whom, ini 
different countries, he had converted to the Chris- 
tian faith ; in these letters he affirms two things ; first, 
that he had wrought miracles in their presence ; 
secondly, that many of themselves had received the 
gift of tongues, and other miraculous gifts of the 
Holy Ghost. The persons to whom these letters 
were addressed must, on reading them, have certainly 
known whether Paul affirmed what was true, or told 
a plain lie ; they must have known whether they had 
seen him work miracles ; they must have been con- 
scious whether they themselves did or did not pos- 
sess any miraculous gifts. Now, can you, or can any 
man, believe for a moment that Paul (a man certainly 
of great abilities) would have written public letters 
full of lies, and which could not fail of being dis- 
covered to be lies as soon as his letters were read ? 
Paul could not be guilty of falsehood in these two 
points, or in either of them ; and if either of them 
be true, the Christian religion is true. References to 
these two points are frequent in St. Paul's epistles: 
I will mention only a few. In his epistle to the Ga- 
latians he says, (chap. 4 : 2, 5,) " This only would I 

138 WATSON'S [420 

learn of you, received ye the Spirit (gifts of the 
Spirit) by the works of the law? He ministereth to 
you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you." To 
the Thessalonians he says, (1 Thess. ch. 1 : 5.) "Our 
Gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in 
power, and in the Holy Ghost." To the Corinthians 
he thus expressed himself, (Cor. 2 : 4,) " My preach- 
ing was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, 
but in the demonstration of the Spirit and of power;" 
and he adds the reason for his working miracles, 
" That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of 
men, but in the power of God." With what alacrity 
would the faction at Corinth, which opposed the apos- 
tle, have laid hold of this and many similar declara- 
tions in his letter, had they been able to have detected 
any falsehood in them? There is no need to multi- 
ply words on so clear a point : the genuineness of 
Paul's epistles proves their authenticity, independently 
of every other proof; for it is absurd in the extreme 
to suppose him, under circumstances of obvious de 
tection, capable of advancing what was not true ; 
and if Paul's epistles be both genuine and authen- 
tic, the Christian religion is true. Think of this argu- 

You close your observations in the following man- 
ner: ''Should the Bible (meaning, as I have befor 
remarked, the Old Testament) and Testament her 
after fall, it is not I that have been the occasion." 
You look, I think, upon your production with a pa- 
rent's partial eye when you speak of it in such 
style of self-complacency. The Bible, sir, has with- 
stood the learning of Porphyry and the power of 
Julian, to say nothing of the Manichean Faitstus; it 

421] REPLY TO PAINE. 130 

has resisted the genius of Bolingbroke and the wit 
of Voltaire, to say nothing of the numerous herd 
of inferior assailants 5 and it will not fall by your 
force. You have barbed anew the blunted arrows of 
former adversaries ; you have feathered them with 
blasphemy and ridicule; dipped them in your dead- 
liest poison ; aimed them with your utmost skill ; shot 
them against the shield of faith with your utmost 
vigor; but, like the feeble javelin of aged Priam, 
they will scarcely reach the mark, and will fall to the 
ground without a stroke. 


The remaining part of your work can hardly be 
made the subject of animadversion. It principally 
consists of unsupported assertions, abusive appella- 
tions, illiberal sarcasms, " strifes of words, profane 
babblings, and oppositions of science, falsely so called." 
I am hurt at being, in mere justice to the subject, un- 
der the necessity of using such harsh language ; and 
am sincerely sorry that, from what cause I know not, 
your mind has received a wrong bias in every point 
respecting revealed religion. You are capable of bet- 
ter things ; for there is a philosophical sublimity in 
some of your ideas, when you speak of the Supreme 
Being as the Creator of the universe. That you may 
not accuse me of disrespect, in passing over any part 
of your work without bestowing proper attention upon 
it, I will wait upon you through what you call your 

You refer your reader to the former part of the Age 
of Reason ; in which you have spoken of what you 

140 WATSON'S [422 

esteem three frauds : mystery, miracle, and prophecy. 
I have not at hand the book to which you refer, and 
know not what you have said on these subjects. They 
are subjects of great importance, and we, probably, 
should differ essentially in our opinion concerning- 
them ; but, I confess, I am not sorry to be excused from 
examining what you have said on these points. The 
specimen of your reasoning which is now before me, 
has taken from me every inclination to trouble either 
my reader or myself with any observations on your 
former book. 

You admit the possibility of God's revealing his 
will to man ; yet " the thing so revealed," you say " is 
revelation to the person only to whom it is made ; his 
account of it to another is not revelation." This is 
true ; his account is simple testimony. You add, there 
is no " possible criterion to judge of the truth of what 
he says." This I positively deny ; and contend that 
a real miracle, performed in attestation of a revealed 
truth, is a certain criterion by which we may judge of 
the truth of that attestation. I am perfectly aware of 
the objections which may be made to this position ; I 
have examined them with care ; I acknowledge them 
to be of weight ; but I do not speak unadvisedly, or as 
wishing to dictate to other men, when I say that I am 
persuaded the position is true. So thought Moses, 
when in the matter of Korah he said to the Israelites, 
" If these men die the common death of all men, then 
the Lord hath not sent me." So thought Elijah, wheo 
he said, "Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, 
let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, 
and that I am thy servant :" and the people before 
whom he spake were of the same opinion ; for, when 

423] REPLY TO PAINE. % 141 

the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt-sa- 
crifice, they said, " The Lord he is the God." So 
thought our Savior, when he said, " The works that I do 
in my Father's name they bear witness of me ;" and, 
"if I do not the works of my Father, believe me not." 
What reason have we to believe Jesus speaking in 
the Gospel, and to disbelieve Mahomet speaking in 
the Koran ? Both of them lay claim to a Divine com- 
mission ; and yet we receive the words of the one as 
a revelation from God, and we reject the words of the 
other as an imposture of man. The reason is evident : 
Jesus established his pretensions, not by alleging any 
secret communication with the Deity, but by working 
numerous and indubitable miracles in the presence of 
thousands, and which the most bitter and watchful of 
his enemies could not disallow ; but Mahomet wrought 
no miracles at all : nor is a miracle the only criterion 
by which we may judge the truth of a revelation. If 
a series of prophets should, through a course of many 
centuries, predict the appearance of a certain person 
whom God would at a particular time send into the 
world for a particular end, and at length a person 
should appear in whom all the predictions were mi- 
nutely accomplished ; such a completion of prophecy 
would be a criterion of the truth of that revelation 
which that person should deliver. to mankind. Or if 
a person should now say (as many false prophets have 
said, and are daily saying) that he had a commission 
to declare the "will of God ; and, as a proof of his ve- 
racity, should predict that, after his death, he would 
rise from the dead on the third day ; the completion 
of such a prophecy would, I presume, be a sufficient 
criterion of the truth of what this man might have said 

142 WATSON'S [424 

concerning the will of God. "Now I tell you (says 
Jesus to his disciples, concerning Judas, who was to 
betray him) before it come, that when it is come to 
pass ye may believe that I am he." 

In various parts of the Gospels our Savior, with the 
utmost propriety, claims to be received as the messen- 
ger of God, not only from the miracles which he 
wrought, but from the prophecies which were fulfilled 
in his person, and from the predictions which he him- 
self delivered. Hence, instead of there being no cri- 
terion by which we may judge of the truth of the 
Christian revelation, there are clearly three. It is an 
easy matter to use an indecorous flippancy of language 
in speaking of the Christian religion, and with a su- 
percilious negligence, to class Christ and his apostles 
among the impostors who have figured in the world; 
but it is not, I think, an easy matter for any man, of 
good sense and sound erudition, to make an impartial 
examination into any one of the three grounds of 
Christianity which I have here mentioned, and to 
reject it. 

What is it, you ask, the Bible teaches? The pro- 
phet Micah shall answer you : it teaches us " to do 
justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our 
God ;" justice, mercy, and piety, instead of what you 
contend for, rapine, cruelty, and murder. What is 
it, you demand, the Testament teaches us ? You an- 
swer your question to believe that the Almighty com- 
mitted debauchery with a woman. Absurd and im- 
pious assertion! No, sir, no; this profane doctrine, 
this miserable stuff, this blasphemous perversion of 
Scripture, is your doctrine, not that of the New Tes- 
tament. I will tell you the lesson which it teaches to 

425] REPLY TO PAINE, 143 

infidels as well as to believers ; it is a lesson which 
philosophy never taught, which wit cannot ridicule, 
nor sophistry disprove j the lesson is this : " The dead 
shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that 
hear shall live : all that are in their graves shall come 
forth ; they that have done good, unto* the resurrection 
of life ; and they that have done evil, unto the resur- 
rection of damnation." 

The moral precepts of the Gospel are so well fitted 
to promote the happiness of mankind in this world, 
and to prepare human nature for the future enjoyment 
of that blessedness, of which, in our present state, we 
can form no conception, that I had no expectation they 
would have met with your disapprobation. You say, 
however, " As to the scraps of morality that are irre- 
gularly and thinly scattered in those books, they make 
no part of the pretended thing, revealed religion." 
" Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do 
ye even so to them." Is this a scrap of morality ? Is 
it not rather the concentred essence of all ethics, the 
vigorous root from which every branch of moral duty 
towards each other may be derived? Duties, you 
know, are distinguished by moralists into duties of 
perfect and imperfect obligation : does the Bible teach 
you nothing, when it instructs you that this distinc- 
tion is done away ? when it bids you " put on bowels 
of mercy, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, 
long-suffering, forbearing one another and forgiving 
one another, if any man have a quarrel against any." 
These, and precepts such as these, you will in vain 
look for in the codes of Frederick or Justinian ; you 
cannot find them in your statute-books ; they were not 
taught, nor are they taught, in the schools of heathen 

144 WATSON'S [426 

philosophy j or, if some one or two of them should 
chance to be glanced at by a Plato, a Seneca, or a Ci- 
cero, they are not bound upon the consciences of man- 
kind by any sanction. It is in the Gospel, and in the 
Gospel alone, that we learn their importance : acts of 
benevolence and brotherly love may be to an unbe- 
liever voluntary acts to a Christian they are indis- 
pensable duties. Is a new commandment no part of 
revealed religion ? " A new commandment I give unto 
you, that ye love one another:" the law of Christian 
benevolence is enjoined us by Christ himself, in the 
most solemn manner, as the distinguishing badge of 
our being his disciples. 

Two precepts you particularize as inconsistent with 
the dignity and the nature of man that of not resent- 
ing injuries, and that of loving enemies. Who but 
yourself ever interpreted literally the proverbial phrase ; 
" If a man smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him 
the other also?" Did Jesus himself turn the other 
cheek when the officer of the high priest smote him ? 
It is evident that a patient acquiescence under slight 
personal injuries is here enjoined ; and that a prone- 
ness to revenge, which instigates men to savage acts 
of brutality for every trifling offence, is forbidden. As 
to loving enemies, it is explained in another place, to 
mean, the doing them all the good in our power ; " if 
thine enemy hunger, feed him ; if he thirst, give him 
drink ;" and what think you is more likely to preserve 
peace, and to promote kind affections amongst men, 
than the returning good for evil ? Christianity does 
not order us to love in proportion to the injury ; " it 
does not offer a premium for a crime ;" it orders us to 
let our benevolence extend alike to all, that we may 

427] REPLY TO PAINE. 145 

emulate the benignity of God himself, who maketh 
"his sun to rise on the evil and on the good." 

Aristotle, in his treatise of 'morals, says that some 
thought retaliation of personal wrongs an equitable 
proceeding ; Rhadamanthus is said to have given it 
his sanction; the decemviral laws allowed it; the 
common law of England did not forbid it, and it is 
said to be still the law of some countries, even in 
Christendom : but the mild spirit of Christianity ab- 
solutely prohibits, not only the retaliation of injuries, 
but the indulgence of every resentful propensity. 

" It has been," you affirm, " the scheme of the Chris- 
tian church to hold man in ignorance of the Creator, 
as it is of government to hold him in ignorance of his 
rights." I appeal to the plain sense of any honest man 
to judge whether this representation be true. When 
he attends the services of the church, does he discover 
any design in the minister to keep him in ignorance of 
his Creator ? Are not the public prayers in which he 
joins, and the sermons which are preached, all calcu- 
lated to impress upon his mind a strong conviction of 
the mercy, justice, holiness, power, and wisdom of the 
one adorable God, blessed for ever? By these means 
which the Christian church has provided for our in- 
struction, I will venture to say that the most unlearned 
congregation of Christians have more just and sublime/ 
conceptions of the Creator, a more perfect knowledge 
of their duty towards him, and a stronger inducement 
to the practice of virtue, holiness, and temperance, than 
all the philosophers of all the heathen countries i a the 
world ever had, or now have. If, indeed, your sr *ieme 
should take place, and men should no longer believe 
their Bible then would they soon become as ignorant 

146 WATSON'S [428 

of the Creator as all the world was when God called 
Abraham from his kindred, and as all the world, 
which has had no communication with either Jews or 
Christians, now is. Then would they soon bow down 
to stocks and stones, kiss their hand (as they did in the 
time of Job, and as the poor African does now) to the 
moon walking in brightness, and deny the God that 
is above ; then would they worship Jupiter, Bacchus 
and Venus, and emulate, in the transcendent flagi- 
tiousness of their lives, the impure morals of their gods. 
You are animated with proper sentiments of piety, 
when you speak of the structure of the universe. No 
one, indeed, who considers it with attention, can fail 
of having his mind filled with the supremest venera- 
tion for its Author. Who can contemplate, without as- 
tonishment, the motion of a comet, running far beyond 
the orb of Saturn, endeavoring to escape into the path- 
less regions of unbounded space, yet feeling, at its 
utmost distance, the attractive influence of the sun ; 
hearing, as it were, the voice of God arresting its pro- 
gress, and compelling it, after a lapse of ages, to reite- 
rate its ancient course ? Who can comprehend the dis- 
tance of the stars from the earth, and from each other? 
It is so great, that it mocks our conception ; our very 
imagination is terrified, confounded, and lost, when 
we are told that a ray of light, which moves at the 
rate of ten millions of miles in a minute, will not, 
though emitted at this instant from the brightest star, 
reach the earth in less than six years. We think this 
earth a great globe, and we see the sad wickedness 
which individuals are often guilty of, in scraping to- 
gether a little of its dirt ; we view, with still greater 
astonishment and horror, the mighty ruin which has, 

429] REPLY TO PAINE. 147 

in all ages, been brought upon human kind by the 
low ambition of contending powers, to acquire a tem- 
porary possession of a little portion of its surface. But 
how does the whole of this globe sink, as it were, to 
nothing, when we consider that a million of earths 
will scarcely equal the bulk of the sun ; that all the 
stars are suns ; and that millions of suns constitute, 
probably, but a minute 'portion of that material world 
which God hath distributed through the immensity of 
space ! Systems, however, of insensible matter, though 
arranged in exquisite order, prove only the wisdom 
and the power of the great Architect of nature. As 
percipient beings, we look for something more for his 
goodness ; and we cannot open our eyes without see- 
ing it. 

Every portion of the earth, sea, and air, is full of 
sensitive beings, capable, in their respective orders, of 
enjoying the good things which God has prepared for 
their comfort. All the orders of beings are enabled to 
propagate their kind ; and thus provision is made for a 
successive continuation of happiness. Individuals yield 
to the law of dissolution inseparable from the material 
structure of their bodies ; but no gap is thereby left in 
existence ; their place is occupied by other individuals 
capable of participating in the goodness of the Al- 
mighty. Contemplations such as these fill the mind 
with humility, benevolence, and piety. But why should 
we stop here? why not contemplate the goodness of 
God in the redemption as well as in the creation of 
the world ? By the death of his only begotten Son 
Jesus Christ he has redeemed us from the eternal 
death which the transgression of Adam had entailed 
on all his posterity. You believe nothing about the 

148 WATSON'S [430 

transgression of Adam. The history of Eve and the 
serpent excites your contempt; you will not admit 
that it is either a real history or an allegorical repre- 
sentation of death entering into the world through dis- 
obedience to the command of God. Be it so. You find r 
however, that death reigns over all mankind, by what- 
ever means it was introduced : this is not a matter of 
belief, but of lamentable knowledge. The New Tes- 
tament tells us that, through the merciful dispensation 
of God, Christ has overcome death, and restored man 
to that immortality which Adam had lost. This also 
you refuse to believe. Why ? Because you cannot ac- 
count for the propriety of this redemption. Miserable 
reason ! stupid objection ! What is there that you can 
account for ? Not for the germination of a blade of 
grass, not for the fall of a leaf of the forest ; and will 
you refuse to eat of the fruits of the earth, because 
God has not given you wisdom equal to his own ? Will 
you refuse to lay hold on immortality, because he has 
not given you, because he, probably, could not give to 
such a being as man a full manifestation of the end 
for which he designs him, nor of the means requisite 
for the attainment of that end ? What father of a fa- 
mily can make level to the apprehension of his infant 
children all the views of happiness which his pater- 
nal goodness is preparing for them ? How can he ex- 
plain to them the utility of reproof, correction, instruc- 
tion, example, of all the various means by which he 
forms their minds to piety, temperance, and. probity? 
We are children in the hand of God ; we are in the 
very infancy of our existence, just separated from the 
womb of eternal duration ; it may not be possible for 
the Father of the universe to explain to us (infants ID- 

431] REPLY TO PAINE. 149 

apprehension) the goodness and the wisdom of his 
dealings with the sons of men. What qualities of 
mind will be necessary for our well-doing through all 
eternity, we know not ; what discipline in this infancy 
of existence may be necessary for generating these 
qualities, we know not ; whether God could or could 
not, consistently with the general good, have forgiven 
the transgression of Adam without any atonement, we 
know not; whether the malignity of sin be not so 
.great, so opposite to the general good, that it cannot 
be forgiven whilst it exists, that is, whilst the mind 
retains a propensity to it, we know not ; so that if there 
should be much greater difficulty in comprehending 
the mode of God's moral government of mankind than 
there really is, there would be no reason for doubting 
of its rectitude. If the whole human race be considered 
as but one small member of a large community of free 
and intelligent beings of different orders, and if this 
whole community be subject to discipline and laws 
productive of the greatest possible good to the whole 
system, then may we still more reasonably suspect 
our capacity to comprehend the wisdom and goodness 
of all God's proceedings in the moral government of 
the universe. 

You are lavish in your praise of deism. It is so much 
better than atheism, that I mean not to say any thing 
to its discredit ; it is not, however, without its diffi- 
culties. What think you of an uncaused cause of 
every thing ? of a Being who has no relation to time, 
not being older to-day than he was yesterday, nor 
younger to-day than he will be to-morrow ? who has 
no relation to space, not being a part here, and a part 
there, or a whole any where ? What think vou of an 

150 WATSON'S [432 

omniscient Being who cannot know the future ac- 
tions of a man ? Or, if his omniscience enables him 
to know them, what think you of the contingency of 
human actions ? And if human actions are not contin- 
gent, what think you of the morality of actions, of the 
distinction between vice and virtue, crime and inno- 
cence, sin and duty ? What think you of the infinite 
goodness of a Being who existed through eternity 
without any emanation of his goodness manifested in 
the creation of sensitive beings? Or, if you contend 
that there has been an eternal creation, what think 
you of an effect coeval with its cause, of matter not 
posterior to its Maker ? What think you of the exis- 
tence of evil, moral and natural, in the work of an in- 
finite Being, powerful, wise, and good ? What think 
you of the gift of freedom of will, when the abuse of 
freedom becomes the cause of general misery ? I could 
propose to your consideration a great many other ques- 
tions of a similar tendency, the contemplation of which 
has driven not a few from deism to atheism, just as 
the difficulties in revealed religion have driven your- 
self, and some others, from Christianity to deism. 

For my own part, I can see no reason why either re- 
vealed or natural religion should be abandoned on ac- 
count of the difficulties which attend either of them. 
I look up to the incomprehensible Maker of heaven 
and earth with unspeakable admiration and self-anni- 
hilation. I contemplate, with the utmost gratitude and 
humility of mind, his unsearchable wisdom and good- 
ness in the redemption of the world from eternal death, 
through the intervention of his Son Jesus Christ ; and 
I have no doubt of a future state. You and other 
men may conclude differently. From the inert nature 

433] REPLY TO PAINE. 151 

of matter, from the faculties of the human mind, from 
the apparent imperfection of God's moral government 
of the world, from many modes of analogical reason- 
ing, and from other sources, some of the philosophers 
of antiquity did collect, and modern philosophers may, 
perhaps, collect a strong probability of a future exist- 
ence ; and not only of a future existence, but (which 
i quite a distinct question) of a future state of retri- 
bution proportioned to our moral conduct in this world. 
Far be it from me to loosen any of the obligations to 
virtue ; but I must confess that I cannot, from the 
same sources of argumentation, derive any positive 
assurance on the subject. Think then with what 
thankfulness of heart I receive the word of God, 
which tells me, that though "in Adam (by the con- 
dition of our nature) all die." yet " in Christ (by the co- 
venant of grace) shall all be made alive." I lay hold 
on "eternal life as the gift of God, through Jesus 
Christ;" I consider it not as any appendage to the 
nature I derive from Adam, but as the free gift of the 
Almighty, through his Son, whom he hath constituted 
Lord of all, the Savior, the Advocate, and the Judge 
of human kind. 

"Deism," you affirm, "teaches us, without the pos- 
sibility of being mistaken, all that is necessary or pro- 
per to be known." There are three things which all 
reasonable men admit are necessary and proper to be 
known ; the being- of God ; the providence if God / 
a future state of retribution. Whether these three 
truths are so taught us by deism that there is no pos- 
sibility of being mistaken concerning any of them, let 
the history of philosophy, and of ir'olutry, and ?'.:per- 
etition, in all ages and countries, determine. A volume 

152 WATSON'S [134 

might be filled with an account ot the mistakes into 
which the greatest reasoners have fallen, and of the 
uncertainty in which they lived, with respect to every 
one of these points. I will advert, briefly, only to the 
last of them. Notwithstanding the illustrious labors 
of Gassendi, Cudworth, Clarke, Baxter, and of above 
two hundred other modern writers on the subject, the 
natural mortality or immortality of the hunan soul is 
as little understood by us as it was by the philoso- 
phers of Greece or Rome. The opposite opinions of 
Plato and of Epicurus, on this subject, have their se- 
veral supporters amongst the learned of the present 
age in Great Britain, Germany, France, Italy, in every 
enlightened part of the world ; and they, who have 
been most seriously occupied in the study of the ques- 
tion concerning a future state, as deducible from the 
nature of the human soul, are least disposed to give, 
from reason, a positive decision of it either way. The 
importance of revelation is by nothing rendered more 
apparent than by the discordant sentiments of learned 
and good men (for I speak not of the ignorant and im- 
moral) on this point. They show the insufficiency of 
human reason, in a course of above two thousand 
years, to unfold the mysteries of human nature, and 
to furnish, from the contemplation of it, any assurance 
of the quality of our future condition. If you should 
ever become persuaded of this insufficiency, (and you 
can scarce fail of becoming so, if you examine the 
matter deeply,) you will, if you act rationally, be dis- 
posed to investigate, with seriousness and impartiality, 
the truth of Christianity. You will say of the Gospel, 
as the Northumbrian heathens said to Paulinus, by 
whom they were converted to the Christian religion, 

435} REPLY TO PAINE. 153 

" The more we reflect on the nature of our soul, the 
less we know of it. Whilst it animates our body, we 
may know some of its properties ; but when once se- 
parated, we know not whither it goes, or from whence 
it came. Since, then, the Gospel pretends to give us 
clearer notions of these matters, we ought to hear it, 
and, laying aside all passion and prejudice, follow that 
which shall appear most comformable to right reason. 5 -* 
What a blessing is it to beings, with such limited 
capacities as ours confessedly are, to have God himself 
for our instructor in every thing which it much con- 
cerns us vo lisnw! We are principally concerned in 
knowing, not the origin of arts, or the recondite depths 
of science ; not the history of mighty empires deso- 
lating the globe by their contentions ; not the subtili- 
ties of logic, the mysteries of metaphysics, the sub- 
limities of poetry, or the niceties of criticism. These, 
and subjects such as these, properly occupy the learned 
leisure of a few: but the bulk of human kind have 
ever been, and must ever remain, ignorant of them all ; 
they must, of necessity, remain in the same state with 
that which a German emperor voluntarily put himself 
into, when he made a resolution, bordering on barba- 
rism, that he would never read a printed book. We are 
all, of every rank and condition, equally concerned in 
knowing what will become of us after death ; and, if 
we are to live again, we are interested in knowing 
whether it be possible for us to do any thing whilst we 
live here which may render that future life a happy 
one. Now, "that thing called Christianity," as you 
scoffingly speak ; that last best gift of Almighty God, 
as I esteem it, the Gospel oi Jesus Christ, has given 
us the most clear and satisfactory information on both 

154 WATSON'S [436 

these points. It tells us, what deism never could have 
told us, that we shall certainly be raised from the dead; 
that, whatever be the nature of the soul, we shall cer- 
tainly live for ever ; and that, whilst we live here, it is 
possible for us to do much towards the rendering that 
everlasting life a happy one. These are tremendous 
truths to bad men ; they cannot be received and re- 
flected on with indifference by the best ; and they sug- 
gest to all such a cogent motive to virtuous action, as 
deism could not furnish even to Hrntiis himself. 

Some men have been warped to infidelity by vicious- 
ness of life ; and some may have hypocritically pro- 
fessed Christianity from prospects of temporal advan- 
tage ; but, being a stranger to your character, I neither 
impute the former to you, nor can admit the latter as 
operating on myself. The generality of unbelievers 
are such, from want of information on the subject of 
religion; having been engaged from their youth in 
struggling for worldly distinction, or perplexed with 
the incessant intricacies of business, or bewildered in 
the pursuits of pleasure, they have neither ability, in- 
clination, nor leisure, to enter into critical disquisitions 
concerning the truth of Christianity. Men of this de- 
scription are soon startled by objections which they are 
not competent to answer ; and the loose morality of 
the age (so opposite to Christian perfection) co-ope- 
rating with their want of scriptural knowledge, they 
presently get rid of their nursery faith, and are seldom 
sedulous in the acquisition of another, founded, not on 
authority, but sober investigation. The Gospel has 
been offered to their acceptance; and, from whatever 
cause they reject it, I cannot but esteem their situation 
to be dangerous. Under the influence of that persua- 

437] REPLY TO PAINE. 155 

sion I have been induced to write this book. I do not 
expect to derive from it either fame or profit ; these 
are not improper incentives to honorable activity, but 
there is a time of life when they cease to direct the 
judgment of thinking men. What I have written will 
not, I fear, make any impression on you ; but I indulge 
a hope that it may not be without its effect on some of 
your readers. Infidelity is a rank weed ; it threatens to 
overspread the land ; its root is principally fixed 
amongst the great and opulent, but you are endeavoring 
to extend the malignity of its poison through all the 
classes of the community. For all I have the greatest 
respect, and am anxious to preserve them from the 
contamination of your irreligion. I know that many 
of the mercantile and laboring classes are given to 
reading, and desirous of information on all subjects. 
If this little book should chance to fall into their hands 
after they have read yours, and they should think that 
any of your objections to the authority of the Bible 
have not been fully answered, I entreat them to attri 
bute the omission to the brevity which I have studied ; 
to my desire of avoiding learned disquisitions ; to my 
inadvertency ; to my inability ; to any thing rather than 
to an impossibility of completely obviating every diffi- 
culty you have brought forward. I address the same 
request to such of the youth of both sexes as may un 
happily have imbibed, from your writings, the poison 
of infidelity ; beseeching them to believe that all their 
religious doubts may be removed, though it may not 
have been in my power to answer, to their satisfaction, 
all your objections. I pray God that the rising genera- 
tion of this land may be preserved from that " evil 
heart of unbelief" which has brought ruin on a neigh- 

156 UATSON'3 REPLY TO PAINE. ' [438 

boring nation ; that neither a neglected education, nor 
domestic irreligion, nor evil communication, nor the 
fashion of a licentious world, may ever induce them to 
forget that religion alone ought to be their rule of life. 

In the conclusion of my Apology for Christianity, I 
informed Mr. Gibbon of my extreme aversion to public 
controversy. I am now twenty years older than I was 
then, and I perceive that this my aversion has increased 
v/ith my age. I have, through life, abandoned my lit- 
tle literary productions to their fate ; such of them as 
have been attacked, have never received any defence 
from me ; nor will this receive any, if it should meet 
with your public notice, or with that of any other man. 

Sincerely wishing that you may become a partaker 
of that faith in revealed religion which is the founda- 
tion of my happiness in this world, and of all my 
hopes in another, I bid you farewell. 


Calgarih Park, Jan. 20, 1796. 



The plausible and sophistical argument of Hume, 
in his Essay on Miracles, in which he contends that 
" a miracle, however attested, can never be rendered 
credible," since " it is contrary to experience that a 
miracle should be true, but not contrary to experience 
that testimony should be false," has been ably an- 
swered by Drs. Campbell, Adam, Hey, Price, Doug- 
lass, Paley, Whately, Dwight, Alexander, Professor 
Vince, and others. The following brief notices seem 
all that it is necessary to insert in this volume. 

"Independent," says Douglass in his 'Errors re- 
garding Religion, 7 "of the reductio ad absurdum 
which Hume's own philosophy affords against his 
favorite argument, and which is undermined by the 
very system from which it springs, it may be observed 
that it contains within itself a complication of blun- 
ders, more numerous, perhaps, than ever were crowded 
into the same brief spucc. The argument of Hume 
against miracles is as follows :\ A miracle is a viola- 
tion of the laws of nature, but we learn from expe- 
rience that the laws of nature are never violated.- 
Our only accounts of miracles depend upon testimony, 
and our belief in testimony itself depends upon 
experience. But experience shows that testimony is 


sometimes true and sometimes false ; therefore, we 
have only a variable experience in favor of testimony. 
But we have a uniform experience in favor of the 
uninterrupted course of nature. Therefore, as on the 
side of miracles there is but a variable experience, 
and on the side of no miracles a uniform experience, 
it is clear that the lower degree of evidence must 
yield to the higher degree, and therefore no testimony 
can prove a miracle to be true. 

"Every one who has attacked this sophistry has 
pointed out a new flaw in it, and they are scarcely yet 
exhausted. Paley showed that it was necessary to 
demonstrate that there was no God, previously to de 
monstrating that there could be no miracles. Camp- 
bell showed that so far from belief in testimony being 
founded on expeaence alone, it was diffidence in tes- 
timony that we acquire by experience. Others have 
pointed out the sophism in the double use of the 
word experience, and the confusing of the experience 
of a particular individual with the universal experi- 
ence of mankind ; for to assert that miracles are 
contrary to experience in the last sense, is most piti- 
fully to beg the question. Others have observed upon 
the complete misapprehension of the argument of 
Tillotson, and upon the sophism in the use of the 
word " contrary," for as it is a begging of the ques- 
tion to say that miracles arc contrary to the experience 
of mankind, so it is a sophism to say that they are con- 
trary to the experience of Mr. Hume himself, unless he 
had been personally present at the time and place, when 
and where all the miracles recorded in the Bible are said 
to have been wrought, from the days of Moses to the 
time of our Savior. Our experience, so far from being 


contrary to miracles, is decided in favor of them. Both 
our reason and our experience are altogether in favor 
of the veracity of testimony, where there is no motive 
to deceive, and no possibility of being deceived. Such 
was the case with the apostles. Their personal expe- 
rience, and that of many others, is invincibly in favor 
of miracles. There is no experience no, not even of 
a single individual, against miracles. No one was ever 
placed in the situation where miracles might be rea- 
sonably expected, to whom miracles were not vouch- 
safed. Thus so far from miracles being contrary to 
experience, the whole range of the experience we 
possess is altogether, and without one solitary excep- 
tion, in favor of miracles. 

" But to take entirely new ground, miracles, philo- 
sophically speaking, are not violations of the laws of 
nature. The miracles of the Bible, which are the 
only true miracles, so far from being violations of na- 
ture, are as natural as the lifting up of a stone from 
the ground, or impelling a vessel along the waves by 
the stroke of an oar. None would call it a violation 
of the laws of nature when human agents set a body 
in motion which was previously at rest, and which 
would have remained at rest without their interfer- 
ence ; still less can it be called a violation of the laws 
of nature, when the Divine Agent, who is the law- 
giver of nature, impresses an additional force upon 
creation^ and gives a new direction to its movements. 
But it would be endless to go over all the variety of 
mistakes which are involved in the sophistry against 
miracles, and to point out the many vulgar and un- 
philosophical notions which are implied in Hume's 


reasonings, both concerning nature and her inviolable 

The proofs in Campbell's admirable treatise are 
summed up by the author in the following words : 

<; What is the sum of what has been now discussed ? 
It is briefly this, that the author's favorite argument, 
of which he boasts the discovery, is founded in error, 
is managed with sophistry, and is at last abandoned 
by its inventor, as fit only for show, not for use; that 
he is not more successful in the collateral arguments 
he employs, particularly that there is no peculiar pre- 
sumption against religious miracles ; that, on the con- 
trary, there is a peculiar presumption in their favor ; 
that the general maxim, whereby he would enable us 
to decide betwixt opposite miracles, when it is stript 
of the pompous diction that serves it at once for de- 
coration and for disguise, is discovered to be no other 
than an identical proposition, which, as it conveys DO 
knowledge, can be of no service to the cause of truth ; 
that there is no presumption, arising either from hu- 
man nature or from the history of mankind, against 
the miracles said to have been wrought in proof of 
Christianity ; that the evidence of these is not sub 
verted by those miracles which historians of other na- 
tions have recorded ; that neither the Pagan nor the 
Popish miracles, on which he has expatiated, will bear 
to be compared with those of holy writ ; that, abstract- 
ing from the evidence of particular facts, we have irre- 
fragable evidence that there have been miracles in 
former times ; and, lastly, that his examination of the 
Pentateuch is both partial and imperfect, and conse- 
quently stands in need of a revisal." 


Starkie, an author of great eminence m the legal 
profession, in his " PRACTICAL TREATISE ON THE LAW 
OF EVIDENCE," under the head of " Force of Testimo- 
ny," vol. 1, p. 471, appends the following note, than 
which nothing can be more conclusive. 

u In observing upon the general principles on which 
the credibility of human testimony rests, it may not 
be irrelevant to advert to the summary positions on 
this subject advanced by Mr. Hume. He says in his 
Essay, vol. 2, sec. 10, A miracle is a violation of the 
laws of nature ; and as a firm and unalterable expe 
rience has established these laws, the proof against 
a miracle, from the very nature of the fact, is as entire 
as any argument from experience can possibly be ima- 
gined. As a matter of abstract philosophical conside- 
ration, (for in that point of view only can the subject 
be adverted to in a Avork like this,) Mr. Hume's rea- 
soning appears to be altogether untenable. In the first 
place, the very basis of his inference is, that faith in 
human testimony is founded solely upon experience; 
this is by no means the fact ; the credibility of testi- 
mony frequently depends upon the exercise of reason, 
on the effect of coincidences in testimony , which, if 
conclusion be excluded, cannot be accounted for but 
upon the supposition that the testimony of concurring 
witnesses is true ; so much so, that their individual cha- 
racter for veracity is frequently but of secondary im- 
portance, (supra, 466.) Its credibility also greatly de- 


pends upon confirmation by collateral circumstances, 
and on analogies supplied by the aid of reason as well 
as of mere experience. But even admitting experience 
to be the basis, even the sole basis, of such belief, the 
position built upon it is unwarrantable ; and it is falla- 
cious, for, if adopted, it would lead to error. The posi- 
tion is, that human testimony, the force of which rests 
upon experience, is inadequate to prove a violation of 
the laws of nature, which are established by firm and 
unalterable experience. The very essence of the argu- 
ment is, that the force of human testimony (the effi- 
cacy of which in the abstract is admitted) is destroyed 
by an opposite, conflicting, and superior force, derived 
also from experience. If this were so, the argument 
would be invincible ; but the question is, whether mere 
previous inexperience of an event testified is directly 
opposed to human testimony, so that mere inexperience 
as strongly proves that the thing is not, as previous ex- 
perience of the credibility of human testimony proves 
that it is. Now a miracle, or violation of the laws of 
nature, can mean nothing more than an event or eflect 
never observed before ; and on the other hand, an event 
or effect in nature never observed before is a violation 
of the laws of nature; thus, to take Mr. Hume's own 
example, ' it is a miracle that a dead man should 
come to life, because that has never been observed in 
any age or country ;' precisely in the same sense, the 
production of a new metal from potash, by means of a 
powerful and newly-discovered agent in nature, and 
the first observed descent of meteoric stones, were vio- 
lations of the laws of nature ; they were events which 
had never before been observed, and to the production 
of which the known laws of nature are inadequate. 


But none of these events can, with the least propriety, 
be said to be against or contrary to the laws of na- 
ture in any other sense than that they have never be- 
fore been observed ; and that the laws of nature, as far 
as they were previously known, were inadequate to 
their production. The proposition of Mr. Hume ought 
then to be stated thus : Human testimony is founded 
on experience, and is therefore inadequate to prove 
that of which there has been no previous experience. 
Now, whether it be plain and self-evident that the 
mere negation of experience of a particular fact neces- 
sarily destroys all faith in the testimony of those who 
assert the fact to be true ; or whether, on the other 
hand, this be not to confound the principle of belief 
with the subject matter to which it is to be applied ; 
and whether it be not plainly contrary to reason to in- 
fer the destruction of an active principle of belief from 
the mere negation of experience, which is perfectly- 
consistent with the just operation of that principle ; 
whether, in short, this be not to assume broadly that 
mere inexperience on the one hand is necessarily su- 
perior to positive experience on the other, must be left 
to every man's understanding to decide. The inferio- 
rity of mere negative evidence to that which is direct 
and positive, is, it will be seen, a consideration daily 
acted upon in judicial investigations. Negative evi- 
dence is, in the abstract, inferior to positive, because 
the negative is not directly opposed to the positive tes- 
timony ; both may be true. Must not this consideration 
also operate where there is mere inexperience, on the 
one hand, of an event in nature, and positive testimo- 
ny of the fact on the other? Again, what are the laws 
of nature, established by firm and unalterable expe- 


rience ? That there may be, and are, general and even 
unalterable laws of providence and nature may readi- 
ly be admitted ; but, that human knowledge and ex- 
perience of those laws is unalterable (which alone can 
be the test of exclusion) is untrue, except in a very 
limited sense 5 that is, it may fairly be assumed that a 
law of nature once known to operate, will always ope- 
rate in a similar manner, unless its operation be im 
peded or counteracted by a new and contrary cause. 
In a larger sense, the laws of nature are continually 
alterable: as experiments are more frequent, more per- 
fect, and as new phenomena are observed, and new 
causes or agents are discovered, human experience of 
the laws of nature becomes more general and more 
perfect. How much more extended and perfect, for 
instance, are the laws which regulate chemical attrac- 
tions and affinities than they were two centuries ago? 
And it is probable that in future ages experience of 
the laws cf nature will be more perfect than it is at 
present; it is, in short, impossible to define to what 
extent such knowledge may be carried, or whether, ul- 
timately, the whole may not be resolvable into prin- 
ciples admitting of no other explanation than that they 
result immediately from the will of a superior Being. 
This, at all events, is certain, that the laws of nature, 
as inferred by the aid of experience, have from time to 
time, by the aid of experience, been rendered more 
general and more perfect. Experience, then, so far 
from pointing out any unalterable laws of nature to 
the exclusion of events or phenomena which have 
never before been experienced, and which cannot be 
accounted for by the laws already observed, shows the 
very contrary, and proves that such new events or 


phenomena may become the foundation of more en- 
larged, more general, and therefore more perfect laws. 
But whose experience is to be the test? that of the 
objector; for the very nature of the objection excludes 
all light from the experience of the rest of mankind. 
The credibility, then, of human testimony is to de- 
pend not on any intrinsic or collateral considerations 
which can give credit to testimony, but upon the ca- 
sual and previous knowledge of the person to whom 
the testimony is offered; in other ends, it is plain that 
a man's scepticism must bear a direct proportion to his 
ignorance. Again, if Mr. Hume's inference be just, 
the consequences to which it leads cannot be erro- 
neous ; on the other hand, if it lead to error, the in- 
fluence must be fallacious ; the position is, that human 
testimony is inadequate to prove that which has never 
been observed before, and this, by proving far too much 
for the author's purpose, is felo de se, and in effect 
proves nothing : for if constant experience amount to 
stronger evidence on the one side than is supplied by 
positive testimony on the other, the argument applies 
necessarily to all cases where mere constant inexpe- 
rience on the one hand is opposed to positive testimo- 
ny on the other. According, then, to this argument, 
every philosopher was bound to reject the testimony 
of witnesses that they had seen the descent of meteo- 
ric stones, and even acted contrary to sound reason in 
attempting to account for a fact disproved by constant 
inexperience, and would have been equally foolish in 
giving credit to a chemist that he had produced a me- 
tal from potash by means of a galvanic battery. It 
will not, I apprehend, be doubted that in these and si- 
milar instances the effect of Mr. Hume's argument 


would have been to exclude testimony which was 
true, and to induce false conclusions ; the principle, 
therefore, on which it is founded, must of necessity be 
fallacious. Nay further, if the testimony of others is 
to be rejected, however unlikely they were either to 
deceive or be deceived on the mere ground of inexpe- 
rience of the fact testified, the same argument might 
be urged even to the extravagant length of excluding 
the authority of a man's own senses ; for it might be 
said that it is more probable that he should have la- 
bored under some mental delusion, than that a fact 
should have happened contrary to constant experience 
of the course of nature. 

"In stating that the inference attempted to be drawn 
from mere inexperience is fallacious, I mean not to as- 
sert that the absence of previous experience of a par- 
ticular fact or phenomenon is not of the highest im- 
portance to be weighed as a circumstance in all inves- 
tigations, whether they be physical, judicial, or histo- 
rical ; the more remote the subject of testimony is from 
our own knowledge and experience, the stronger ought 
the evidence to be to warrant our assent; neither is it 
meant to deny that in particular instances, and under 
particular circumstances, the want of absence of pre- 
vious experience may not be too strong for positive 
testimony, especially when it otherwise labors under 
suspicion. What is meant is this, that mere inexpe- 
rience, however constant, is not in itself, and in the 
abstract, and without consideration of all the internal 
and external probabilities in favor of human testimony, 
sufficient to defeat and to destroy it, so as to supersede 
the necessity of investigation. Mr. Hume's conclusion 
is highly objectionable, in a philosophical point of 


view, inasmuch as it would leave phenomena of the 
most remarkable nature wholly unexplained, and would 
operate to the utter exclusion of all inquiry. Estoppels 
are odious, even in judicial investigations, because 
they tend to exclude the truth ; in metaphysics they 
are intolerable. So conscious was Mr. Hume himself 
of the weakness of his general and sweeping position, 
that in the second part of his 10th section he limits his 
inference in these remarkable terms, ' I beg the limi- 
tations here made may be remarked, when I say that 
a miracle can never be proved so as to be the founda- 
tion of a system of religion; for I own that otherwise 
there may possibly be miracles or violations of the 
usual course of nature of such a kind as to admit of 
proof from human testimony.' 

" In what way the use to be made of a fact, when 
proved, can affect the validity of the proof, or how i* 
can be that a fact proved to be true is not true for all 
purposes to which it is relevant, I pretend not to un- 
derstand. Whether a miracle, when proved, may be 
the foundation of a system of religion, is foreign to the 
present discussion ; but when it is once admitted that 
a miracle may be proved by human testimony, it ne- 
cessarily follows, from Mr. Hume's own concession, 
that his general position is untenable ; for that, if true, 
goes to the full extent of proving that human testi- 
mony is inadequate to the proof of a miracle, or vio- 
lation of the laws of nature." 

12 \VE3T ON ["450 




In the unanswered and unanswerable treatise of 
GILBERT WEST, Esq. on the resurrection, all seeming 
contradictions in the narratives of the Evangelists are 
so fully explained, and the whole subject of the re- 
surrection so amply and ably presented, that it forms 
one of the most convincing proofs of the truth of Chris- 
tianity. The reader who would thoroughly examine 
the subject, is referred to the volume itself. Only the 
outline of the order of events as presented by the au- 
thor is here given. 

Having thus cleared the way, (he says, section 9,) I 
snail now set down the several incidents of this won- 
derful event, in the order in which, according to the 
foregoing observations, they seem to have arisen ; af- 
ter premising that our Savior, Christ, was crucified 
on a Friday, (the preparation, or the day before the 
Jewish Sabbath,) gave up the ghost about three o'clock 
in the afternoon of the same day, and was buried that 
evening, before the commencement of the Sabbath, 
which among the Jews was always reckoned to begin 
from the first appearance of the stars on Friday even- 
ing, and to end at the appearance of them again on the 
day we call Saturday : that some time, and most proba- 
bly towards the close of the Sabbath, after the religious 
duties of the day were over, the chief priests obtained 
of Pilate, the Roman governor, a guard to watch the 
sepulchre till the third day was past, pretending to 

451] THE RESURREC110N. 13 

apprehend that his disciples might come by night and 
steal away the body, and then give out that he was 
risen, according to what he himself had predicted 
while he was yet alive ; that they did accordingly set 
a guard, made sure the sepulchre, and to prevent the 
soldiers themselves from concurring with the disciples, 
they put a seal upon the stone which closed up the en- 
trance of the sepulchre. 

The order I conceive to have been as follows : 
Very early on the first day of the week (the day im- 
mediately following the Sabbath, and the third from 
the death of Christ) Mary Magdalene and the other 
Mary, in pursuance of the design of embalming the 
Lord's body, which they had concerted with the other 
women who attended him from Galilee to Jerusalem, 
and for the performing of which they had prepared 
unguents and spices, set out, in order to take a view 
of the sepulchre, just as the day began to break; and 
about the time of their setting out, " there was a greo.t 
earthquake; for the angel of the Lord descended from 
heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the 
door of the sepulchre, and sat upon it: his countenance 
was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow ; 
and for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became 
as dead men," during whose amazement and terror 
Christ came out of the sepulchre ; and the keepers 
being now recovered out of their trance and fled, the 
angel, who till then sat upon the stone, quitted the sta- 
tion on the outside, and entered into the sepulchre, 
and probably disposed the linen clothes and napkin in 
that order in which they were afterwards found and 
observed by John and Peter. Mary Magdalene, in the 
meanwhile, and the other Mary, were still on their 

14 WEST ON [452 

way to the sepulchre, where, together with Salome, 
(whom they had either called upon or met as they 
were going,) they arrived at the rising of the sun. And 
as they drew near, discoursing about the method of put- 
ting their intent of embalming the body of their Master 
in execution, "they said among themselves, who shall 
roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre ? 
for it was very great ;" and they themselves (the two 
Maries at least) had seen it placed there two days be- 
fore, and seen with what difficulty it was done. But 
in the midst of their deliberation about removing this 
great and sole obstacle to their design, (for it does not 
appear that they knew any thing of the guard,) lifting 
up their eyes, while they were yet at some distance, 
they perceived it was already rolled away. Alarmed 
at so extraordinary and so unexpected a circumstance,. 
Mary Magdalene, concluding that, as the stone could 
not be moved without a great number of hands, so it 
was not rolled away without some design, and that 
they who rolled it away could have no other design 
but to remove the Lord's body ; and being convinced 
by appearances that they had done so, ran immediately 
to acquaint Peter and John with what she had seen 
and what she suspected, leaving Mary and Salome 
there, that if Joanna and the other women should come 
in the meantime, they might acquaint them with their 
surprise at finding the stone removed and the body 
gone, and of Mary Magdalene's running to inform the 
two above-mentioned apostles of it. While she was 
going on this errand, Mary and Salome went on, and 
c/itered into the sepulchre, "and there saw an an- 
f r- A sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white 
{/ jrmeiit, and they were affrighted. And he saith unto 


them, Be not affrighted; ye seek Jesus of Nazareth 
which was crucified ; he is risen, he is not here; be- 
hold the place where they laid him. But go your way, 
tell his disciples, and Peter, that he goeth before you 
into Galilee ; there shall ye see him, as he said unto 
you. And they went out quickly and fled from the se- 
pulchre, for they trembled and were amazed ; neither 
said they any thing to any man, for they were afraid." 
After the departure of Mary and Salome came John 
and Peter, who having been informed by Mary Mag- 
dalene that the body of the Lord was taken away out 
of the sepulchre, and that she knew not where they 
had laid him, "ran both together to the sepulchre, and 
the other disciple [John] outran Peter, and came first 
to the sepulchre ; and he, stooping down and looking 
in, saw the linen clothes lying, yet went he not in. 
Then cometh Simon Peter, following him, and went 
into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie, and 
the napkin that was about his head, not lying with 
the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by 
itself. Then went in also tnat other disciple which 
came first to the sepulchre, and he saw and believed ; 
for as yet they knew not the Scripture, that he must 
rise again from the dead. Then the disciples went 
away again unto their own home. But Mary stood 
without at the sepulchre weeping ; and as she wept, 
she stooped down and looked into the sepulchre, and 
seeth two angels in white, sitting, the one at the head, 
and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had 
lain ; and they say unto her, Woman, why weepest 
thou ? She saith unto them, Because they have taken 
away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid 
him. And when she had thus said, she turned herself 

16 WEST ON [454 

back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it 
was Jesus. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest 
thou ? Whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to 
be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne 
him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I 
will take him away. Jesus saith unto her, Mary ! She 
turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni ! which 
is to say, Master ! Jesus saith unto her, Touch me 
not, for I am not yet ascended unto my Father ; but 
go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto 
my Father and your Father, and to my God and your 
God." After this appearance of Christ to Mary Mag- 
dalene, to whom St. Mark says expressly he appeared 
first, the other Mary and Salome, who had fled from 
the sepulchre in such terror and amazement that they 
said not any thing to any man, (that is, as I under- 
stand, had not told the message of the angel to some 
whom they met, and to whom they were directed to 
deliver it,) were met on their way by Jesus Christ 
himself, who said to them, " All hail ! And they came 
and held him by the feet and worshiped him. Then 
said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid, go tell my brethren 
that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me." 
These several women and the two apostles being now 
gone from the "sepulchre, Joanna with the other Gali- 
lean women, " and others with them, came bringing 
the spices which they had prepared for the embalming 
the body of Jesus, and finding the stone rolled away 
from the sepulchre, they entered in, but not finding 
the body of the Lord Jesus, they were much perplexed 
thereabout, and behold two men stood by them in shin- 
ing garments ; and as they were afraid, and bowed 
down their faces to the earth, they said unto them. 


Why seek ye the living among the dead ? He is not 
here, but is risen. Remember how he spake unto you 
when he was yet in Galilee, saying, The Son of man 
must be delivered into the hancW of sinful men, and 
be crucified, and the third day rise again. And they 
remembered his words, and returned from the sepul- 
chre, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to 
all the rest. And their words seemed to them as idle 
tales, and they believed them not." But Peter, who 
upon the report of Mary Magdalene had been at the 
sepulchre, had entered into it, and with a curiosity that 
bespoke an expectation of something extraordinary, 
and a desire of being satisfied, had observed that the 
linen clothes in which Christ was buried, and the 
napkin which was about his head, were not only left 
in the sepulchre, but carefully wrapped up and laid 
in several places ; and who from thence might begin 
to suspect what his companion St. John from those 
very circumstances seems to have believed : Peter, I 
say, hearing from Joanna that she had seen a vision 
of angels at the sepulchre, who had assured her that 
Christ was risen, starting up, ran thither immediately, 
and knowing that the angels, if they were within the 
sepulchre, might be discovered without his going in, 
he did not, as before, enter in, but stooping down looked 
so far in as to see the c: linen clothes, and departed, 
wondering in himself at that which was come to pass." 
And either with Peter, or about that time, went some 
other disciples who were present when Joanna and the 
other women made their report, "and found it even so 
as the women had said. The same day two of the 
disciples went to a village called Emmaus, which was 
from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs. And they 

18 WEST oft (456 

talked together of all those things which had happened * 
And it came to pass that while they communed to^ 
gether and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and 
went with them. But their eyes were holden. that 
they should not know him, And he said unto them. 
What manner of communications [arguments] are 
these that ye have one to another, as ye walk and are 
sad ? And one of them, whose name was Cleopas, an- 
swering said unto him, Art thou only a stranger in 
Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are 
come to pass there in these days ? And he said unto 
them, What things ? And they said unto him, Con- 
cerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty 
in deed and word before God and all the people ; and 
how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to 
be condemned to death, and have crucified him. But 
we trusted that it had been he which should have re- 
deemed Israel ; and beside all this, to-day is the third 
day since these things were done. Yea, and certain 
women also of our company made us astonished, 
which were early at the sepulchre ; and when they 
found not his body, they came, saying that they had 
also seen a vision of angels, which said that he was 
alive. And certain of them which were with us, went 
to the sepulchre, and found it even so as the women 
had said ; but him they saw not. Then he said unto 
them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the 
prophets have spoken ! Ought not Christ to have suf- 
fered these things, and to enter into his glory ? And 
beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded 
unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning 
himself. And they drew nigh unto the village whither 
they went, and he made as though he would have 


gone farther. But they constrained him, saying, Abide 
with us, for it is towards evening, and the day is far 
spent. And he went in to tarry with them. And it 
came to pass as he sat at meat with them, he took 
bread and blessed it, and brake and gave to them. 
And their eyes were opened, and they knew him ; and 
he vanished out of their sight. And they said one to 
another, did not our hearts burn within us, while he 
talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us 
the Scriptures? And they rose up the same hour, and 
returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered 
together, and them that were with them, saying, The 
Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon. 
And they told what things were done in the way, and 
how he was known of them in breaking of bread." 

This is the order in which the several incidents 
above related appear to have arisen ; the conformity 
of which with the words of the evangelists, interpreted 
in their obvious and most natural sense, I have shown 
in my remarks upon the passages wherein they are 
contained. By this order, all the different events na- 
turally and easily follow, and as it were rise out of 
one another, and the narration of the evangelists is 
cleared from all confusion and inconsistencies.